Another company tackling a show outside the usual holiday fare found this time of year, the Fire Escape Equity Co-op presents a gorgeous presentation of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
[pullquote]While the quartet of actors is strong, it is the performance of Marilyn Norry as Amanda Wingfield that makes this production shine. Seemingly destined to play the role, Norry walks the tightrope between strong matriarch and fading Southern Belle with such surprising ease that it will be difficult to overlook her performance come award time.[/pullquote]Williams’ enduring play, a mainstay of community and high school theatre, gets a professional treatment here in this co-op production. And it shows. Where many amateur productions can get bogged down with its sentimentality, here this skilled cast of four, led by a truly remarkable performance by Marilyn Norry, stay true to what is happening around them, creating a real world within Williams’ memory.
From the moment you walk into the Jericho Arts Centre you are immediately transported. Your eyes actually take a few moment to adjust to the low lights of the theatre’s lobby and there is a slight haze of theatrical smoke that fills the entire space. Faint strains of music from the era can be heard in the background as you take your seats and are greeted by Craig Alfredson’s simple open set that captures the Wingfield household in its former glory. Laura’s menagerie of glass is front and centre and it is all exquisitely lit by Kyla Gardiner’s warm sepia-tone design. We have arrived in 1930s St Louis, even before the show begins.
As Masae Day plays the violin, we are introduced first to Tom (Scott Button) as both narrator and Wingfield son, who feels trapped as a warehouse worker in a writer’s body, dreaming of escaping and exploring the world like his father. Button tackles the conflict of his character with skill, as the love for his family is as palpable as his desire for something more. The character’s aggressiveness is tempered and Button manages to illicit a genuine feeling of being trapped between his family and his dreams.
Christine Quintana plays the timid Laura as if a single touch will shatter her into a million pieces and Graeme McComb as the gentleman caller Jim is a breath of fresh air inside this stale household. And while the connection between the two characters won’t break your heart as we discover Jim’s truth, there is a melancholy that remains wholly satisfying.
While the quartet of actors is strong, it is the performance of Marilyn Norry as Amanda Wingfield that makes this production shine. Seemingly destined to play the role, Norry walks the tightrope between strong matriarch and fading Southern Belle with such surprising ease that it will be difficult to overlook her performance come award time. Constantly in movement, Norry’s performance is effortless, and if the scene with daughter Laura on the fire escape at the end of act one scene is the litmus test, Norry delivers beautifully.
Even as Norry appears to be in constant motion, Shawn Macdonald directs with a suitably languid pace and is thankfully not afraid of pauses as he creates some beautiful moments behind the haze. And while this production of The Glass Menagerie may not have the same deep emotional impact of past productions, it is still very satisfying visit with the Wingfields and is definitely worth the trip to the Jericho Arts Centre for both Norry’s performance and its gorgeous design.
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Shawn Macdonald. A Fire Escape Equity Co-op production. On stage at the Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery St, Vancouver) until December 21. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets.