The Glass Menagerie at Denver Center Theatre Company

Broadway World
September 22, 2016

Tennessee Williams has a knack for making me want to quote lines from his shows. These are the kinds of plays I can't wait to talk about for days after, and the current Denver Center Theatre Company's first-ever production of The Glass Menagerie exceeded each one of my expectations.

Directed by Ina Marlowe, Menagerie is an account of the Wingfield family. There's matriarch Amanda (veteran Kathleen McCall, in my favorite roles of hers yet), modeled after Williams' own mother, whose mothering reaches neurotic heights. Her daughter, Laura (a poignant Amelia Pedlow), has a mild physical disability that evolved her to disconnect from society, while Amanda's son, Tom (captivatingly absorbed by Aubrey Deeker) is working in a shoe factory but wants to run away and be a poet. Their lives are overlooked the entire show by an image of their deceased patriarch. Later in the show, they're visited by a gentleman caller, Jim (a charismatic John Skelley).

Not only is the play is gem is its own right, the DCPA has managed to utilize their brilliant design team to bring deeper meaning to the piece. The Ricketson theatre was all but gutted to make room for a wide-open staging, framed by fire escapes. Charles R. MacLeod's lighting design was expanded to new areas; the floors lit up like an elegant dance-floor, enhancing a simple set design by Joseph P. Tilford that was nearly void of props. Glass figurines hung smartly in front of an ever-projected image of the family's deceased father. The look of this production is just gorgeous, down to Meghan Anderson Doyle's impeccable costuming.

The actors brought such relatability to all these characters. I saw myself in Amanda's love-infused obsessions, and on Laura's own little world of social awkwardness. Tom's a sleep-deprived writer looking for an escape, so that's an easy one. Even could-be suitor's Jim (who I expected to hate) had a heart, even if he didn't know quite where it should be.

Leave it to Williams to warm your heart before he rips it out of your chest. And you know it's coming. You can sense that the world of this play is not a happy one, even if certain moments come together better than fate. But that's life, isn't it? And The Glass Menagerie continues to thrive on stage, even more than half a century after its conception.

The Glass Menagerie plays the Ricketson Theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Company through October 16.

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