Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Tennessee Williams Reviews

I still remember the first time I read this opening stage direction:

The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living-units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centres of lower-middle-class population and are symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist and function as one interfused mass of automatism. 
The apartment faces an alley and is entered by a fire-escape, a structure whose name is a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all of these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.

That's The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, one of the plays that high-school Lily carried around like a mental talisman.  Words like this exist.

Last week, I saw a production of the play for the first time, at Marin Theatre Company.  Fire escapes did feature prominently in the industrial set (designed by Kat Conley):

(Photos by Alessandra Mello.)

But as I tried to convey in my review of the production, it was one character who had me enthralled, and it wasn't the character I was expecting to follow.  When I first read the play, I was enchanted by Lauraso sweet, but so withdrawn.  But MTC's production surprised me in how much it made feel for Tom, Laura's brother.  I'm going to keep my eye on Nicholas Pelczar, the actor who played him (above left), from now on.  

The Glass Menagerie continues through Dec. 18.  Info here.


The previous week, at SF Playhouse, I had another pleasant TW-related surprise when I saw his Period of Adjustment, a show I'd never heard of before.  It's a Christmas comedy, which sounds sufficiently out of character for Williams that I had rather low expectations.  I hope this review shows how wrong I was.

(SF Playhouse shows that TW can in fact do Christmas romcoms.  Photo by Jessica Palopoli.)
Period of Adjustment continues through Jan. 14.  Info here.


In retrospect, I've been wondering if I should have written these two reviews as one piece, to see if juxtaposition could reveal further interesting points.  But at the same time, the two plays might not have much more in common than their author and their general high quality.  Either way, I'm starting to look for pieces I could write for SF Weekly that would be more than just a review of a single production.

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