The Glass Menagerie
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Kim Taylor

Marin Classic Theatre walks that fine line between laughter and tragedy, realism and illusion in their production of Tennessee Williamsí The Glass Menagerie. It is a narrow, jagged line yet so fluid that itís almost impossible to balance on. Yet itís this line that runs through all of Williamsí work, a line that has earned him the reputation of being one of Americaís best playwrights. Indeed, this line is America. We are a relatively young country trying to move forward but we often move in wavering, overlapping circles and when we do seem to move forward the fluid line is so illusive that weíre never quite sure how much is reality and how much illusion.

Tom Wingfield (Ben Colteaux) supports his mother and sister by working a dead end job at a warehouse. Tom didnít have much choice when his father, who worked for the phone company, ďfell in love with long distance,Ē and they never heard from him again. As the play progresses, we watch Tomís mother Amanda (Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg) manipulate Tom and his sister Laura (Nicole Zeller) into living their lives her way, and we soon realize that her controlling influence is at least partially responsible for her husband leaving and for Tom contemplating his own escape. Laura, who is physically and emotionally crippled is unfortunately a captive audience to her motherís controlling ways.

As the drama unfolds, the characters waver between being trapped in their overlapping circle of life or escaping to something they hope will be freedom but may just as easily be an illusion like Lauraís glass animal collection. While the animals sparkle with light, they are static; their only potential movement is to be knocked over and broken. Even Tomís potential escape into a freer life as a merchant seaman is riddled with the guilt of abandoning his sister.

In the end, all the characters find themselves in their individual realms of isolation. Though there are many comic moments in this play, it remains a tragedy. Oh, nobody dies like in a classic Shakespearean tragedy, but the way Williams portrays the death of part of each characterís spirit will haunt audiences for days after seeing this performance. But donít be put off by this. Tragedy has a way of cleansing the spirit.

For tickets or more information call The Playhouse in San Anselmo at (415) 892-8551 or visit Also ask about two for the price of one performance nights.

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