Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Theatre: The Glass Menagerie [3 reviews]

The New Theatre in Coral Gables brings a classic to the stage: Tenessee William's largely biographical The Glass Menagerie. Ricky J. Martinez directs a cast featuring Cliff Burgess, Angie Radosh, Katherine Michelle Turner, and Christopher Vicchiollo.

It opened February 26 and runs through March 29, 2009.

Mary Damiano reviewed it for Miami ArtZine;
It's not easy to breathe life into a classic play and also raise tension in a well-known story. But New Theatre achieves both with their production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

The performers make a tight, well-metered ensemble. Burgess plays Tom with the right amount world-weary cynicism, his body language perfect for a young man crushed by the obligation he feels to his mother and sister.

Radosh drips with moonlight and magnolia as smothering single mother Amanda. The second act belongs to Tanner and Vicchiollo. Their tenderness as Jim coaxes Laura out of her shell is endearing, and their performances are so real that it feels voyeuristic to watch them. Tanner is mesmerizing when she hands Jim a tiny unicorn from her glass menagerie and begs him to be careful. When she says, "If you breathe, it breaks," you can feel the weight of her heart in his hands.
Christine Dolen reviewed it for the Miami Herald; Christine seems to have taken my complaints about not enough critique of performances in her review of Dangerous. She covers everyone this time; click through to read the entire review. But here's the synopsis:
...timing being everything (even with classics), the world's current financial chaos makes a play about a fearful unemployed mother, her dreamy daughter and itching-to-take-off son feel utterly current.

Set designer Clint Hooper rather miraculously transforms New Theatre's tiny stage into both the Wingfield apartment and the fire escape that serves as Tom's refuge...

Director Martinez gets solid, effective performances from each of the four actors. Though it must be both exhilarating and a little intimidating to portray such well-known characters, New Theatre's quartet makes The Glass Menagerie its own.
Brandon K.Thorp reviewed it for the Miami New Times: his review takes us places no other reviewer would, and that's a good thing:
After Saturday's opening-night production, Carbonell voter Marzi Kaplan rose from her seat and said, "I didn't think I needed to see that play one more time. I guess I did."
It's a heartening reminder that live theatre is not about the script - although that is important - it's about the production, and each new production brings a fresh look at the material. A movie doesn't change over time; it is frozen for all time. Its audience may change, but the work never does. But a live play is constantly re-interpreted by the current generation for the current generation. New Theatre's performance, as in so many at the playhouse, there is also an aching beauty in the exchange — in O'Connor's unexpected kindness, in Laura's slow yielding to his solicitations. It is exquisite and so full of nuance it's impossible to describe in a space this small.

The cast does its job through all of this, although only Angie Radosh transcends it. She plays Amanda Wingfield like a fan would, like someone who has seen the play, read it, thought about it, and long ago found her heart in sympathy with every stupid decision Mrs. Wingfield makes for her children. There is an unmistakable conviction in the set of her head and in her carriage. It really means something to this woman that Tom and Laura slowly chew their food...Radosh's performance will be unnervingly familiar to anyone acquainted with family women of a certain age who know for a fact they'll never retire with dignity

The Glass Menagerie really is a play about a dinner, and in it, Williams felt free to address everything: longing, fear, historical imperatives, familial love, romantic love, wanderlust, desperation. Nowadays, similar ambitions are aired only in a world-historic context or with an ironic wink. Williams had no irony. He had the cojones to say it all, and to say it with a straight face.

Leaving New Theatre, I was moved and a little heartbroken, but my most conscious thought was totally meta: They just don't write them like they used to.
The Glass Menagerie plays at The New Theatre through March 29, 2009.

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