Rigidity, rules and rituals are the elements that keep all dysfunctional families locked in the vortex of conflict.
Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie" is the ultimate portrait of this dynamic that is all at once fragile and stronger than steel. International City Theatre's current production illuminates Williams’s menagerie with a haunting light. Director John Henry Davis coaxes delicate and sensitive portraits of Williams’s characters out of a capable cast.
The ensemble is led by Jennifer Parsons, whose Amanda Wingfield is emotionally honest in a way that both infuriates and charms the audience. Ty Mayberry and Lizzie Zerebko embody Tom and Laura respectively with a sensitivity that connects them to each other and the audience.
Emilio Garcia-Sanchez as Jim O’Connor seemed uneasy with Williams's cadence and rhythm; his entrance seemed out of place alongside the subtle choices of Mayberry and Zerebko. But as the scene between his character and Zerebko’s unfolded, he seemed to find the tone, and together they brought the scene to its heartbreaking conclusion.
It was splendid to find that Williams's beautiful language is not lost in this production. Over the years, directors have tried to reimagine Williams's delicate portrait with the same verve that directors reinterpret Shakespeare. While the Bard can stand being set in different times and places, Williams can not. His creations are frail webs built to exacting specifications.
I am grateful director Davis chose to support the story in a traditional and simple way. Christopher Scott Murillo’s set and Kim DeShazo’s costumes supported the production without distracting. There were some anachronistic elements like the IKEA-style metal and glass stand the glass menagerie itself inhabits and a couple of costumes that could use a good pressing. Stacy McKenny Norris's lighting served well to remind us that we were in a memory with its lovely timing and misty blue and lavender hues.
In the past, the characters have languished in the hands of overbearing directors and overly clever designers. This production lives in the simple choices and clear decisions made by a caring group of artists who hold this play the way that Laura holds her glass menagerie.
The Glass Menagerie continues at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept 9. Tickets for Thursday and Friday are $47 ($44 for seniors) and $49 Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 436-4610 during business hours or go to www.ictlongbeach.org.
ICT performances are in the Beverly O'Neill Theater, part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.