OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Chesterton actress ready for return of 'Glass Menagerie' in Chicago

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-21T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Chesterton actress ready for return of 'Glass Menagerie' in ChicagoBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Actress Joanne Dubach says she "played on self-insecurities" and "trusted impulses" to play fittingly frail, delicate Laura in Tennessee Williams' stage work "The Glass Menagerie" produced by Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company in Chicago.

Dubach, who is originally from Chesterton, played the role back in January for an original run until Feb. 17 that proved so popular, the entire cast is returning to remount it for another string of dates now staged at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., opening Thursday and playing until June 30.

For this story, Williams' written words for this specific tale are credited as an autobiographical reflection of his own early family life.

L.A.-based Jeff Award winning ensemble member Hans Fleischmann returned to Mary-Arrchie for this re-imagining of Williams' classic memory play with himself not only as the directing creative force, but also in the lead role of Tom.

To prepare for the role, Dubach said she watched multiple clips of how other actresses tackled the same character.

It's been said Williams envisioned Ethel Barrymore and Judy Garland for the roles of the strained mother and daughter when it was going to debut on stage in 1944 in Chicago before Broadway and New York City. Instead, it was actresses Laurette Taylor as the shrewish mother, Amanda Wingfield and Julie Haydon as put-upon daughter Laura Wingfield. By the time the 1950 film version was shot, it was Gertrude Lawrence playing the mother and Jane Wyman as Laura.

A second film version was done by Paul Newman in 1987, starring his wife Joanne Woodward as the mother, John Malkovich as the brother and Karen Allen as Laura, with James Naughton as her would-be suitor.

Over the years, a number of noted actresses have taken turns playing the role of the mother for Broadway revivals, including Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Julie Harris, Jessica Lange, Judith Ivey, Harriet Harris, and Cherry Jones. Katharine Hepburn even played the mom for a television adaptation in 1973.

But young actresses have found the role of Laura particularly challenging over the decades.

"I've worked hard to make sure her physical limitations, in my portrayal, a limp, come across as even and balanced," said Dubach, who graduated from Chesterton High School and was in the speech and debate program, but not school play productions.

"Our cast has been given lots of freedom for our characters, so it's been up to me to develop my own Laura."

Maggie Cain plays her controlling, trapped-by-time, mother Amanda, while  Walter Briggs rounds out the cast nicely as the stiff and confident would-be-suitor Jim.

Tickets for this production are $37 or $32 students/seniors. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. FYI: theaterwit.org or (773) 975-8150 or maryarrchie.com.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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