Tennessee Williams' 1944 autobiographical memory play "The Glass Menagerie" is an exquisite example of how dense writing can combine with subtle performances to extract riches that far exceed the sum of their parts.
Part tone poem, part coming-of-age drama, part elegy for faded promise, the play offers a stunning insight into the origins of one of the most lauded American playwrights.
Director Chanel Bragg orchestrates a dynamite cast. Aaron Cammack owns the stage as the wise-cracking narrator, Tom, who recalls the limbo of living with his delusional, domineering mother and church mouse sister while stuck at a dead-end job.
Lillie Richardson delivers sass and punch as Amanda, the mother, and Michelle Chin provides the delicate emotional core as Tom's sister, Laura. Paul Deo Jr. provides a much-appreciated burst of scene-shifting energy in the second act as Jim, the gentleman caller Amanda badgers Tom to bring home in hopes of kindling romance with Laura.
Thems of fragility, withering hope and steaming angst fume throughout the play, which becomes a metaphor for Deep South society struggling to assume a new identity in the early 20th century.
Looming in the background is the neon sign from a dance hall, which promises escape from the daily routine while also serving as a hollow metaphor for the act of longing for adventure and romance.
I was stunned at the majesty of the production, which filled my soul, crushed my heart and teased my brain with its intricacies.
I watched the show starring Amy Adams in London's West End in August, and found that the ATC production compared favorably in almost every respect, from performances to stagecraft and actor chemistry. This is truly a special production, and its kinetic energy flows through the audience.
"The Glass Menagerie" plays in Tucson through Feb. 11, then moves to Phoenix Feb. 16-March 5. Buy tickets here.