OFFBEAT: Intimate staging of 'Glass Menagerie' in Chicago is hauntingly compelling

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-01-05T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Intimate staging of 'Glass Menagerie' in Chicago is hauntingly compellingBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Like all of Tennessee Williams' stage works, "The Glass Menagerie" provides plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Once the lights go up after final bows, the low murmur of the audience is an indication of how invested others are in the lives of the characters folding before them.

Williams written words in this specific tale are tagged as an autobiographical reflection of his own early family life.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company in Chicago has just extended a new production of "The Glass Menagerie" through Feb. 17 in their intimate upstairs storefront performance space at 735 W. Sheridan.

In this telling, the narrator Tom, is a homeless man living on the streets of St. Louis, following World War II and he navigates through the gritty back alleys of his imagination to the events that led to his ultimate demise.

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 director creative force, but also in the lead role of Tom, which he brilliantly captures.

Chicago musician Daniel Knox has composed an original score that is hauntingly beautiful as the scenes flow, with an added bonus of screen quotes and staging remarks beamed on a back wall courtesy of Anna Henson's projections.

Maggie Cain is transformed as cast as the controlling, trapped-by-time, mother Amanda, while Joanne Dubach is fittingly frail, delicate and believable as the long-suffering sister Laura. Walter Briggs rounds out the cast nicely as the stiff and confident would-be-suitor Jim.

Rudy Galvan does assistant direction and Andrew Donnelly provides the stage management, using a very small stage space this is made to feel infinite from the audience perspective. Matthew Gawryk's lights and Grant Sabin's fantastic set allow guests to step into the mind of the man telling the story.

Stefin Steberl's costumes and Joe Court's sound design, along with Ariana Soloway's abstract use of props, complete this unforgettable theatrical experience.

From mentions of unicorns and blue roses to dandelion wine and salmon loaf with mayonnaise dressing, this is a story told in a way to stick with audiences for a long time, with a warm glow from assorted and strategically placed glassware, lighting the way.

It is especially ideal that "The Glass Menagerie" has returned to Chicago for audiences to once again discover.

The play originally premiered in Chicago in 1944.

And it was because of the high praise delivered by the tough-as-nails theater critics of the day, Ashton Stevens of Hearst Newspapers' Chicago Herald American and Claudia "Acidy" Cassidy of The Chicago Tribune, that helped the producers take it to New York and Broadway.

Tickets for this production are $25 at (773) 871-0442 or

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

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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