Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Glass Menagerie
Ford's Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule


Thomas Keegan and Jenna Sokolowski
Photo by Scott Suchman
Tennessee Williams' breakthrough play The Glass Menagerie can soar with meaning beyond the words spoken on the stage or it can be more earthbound; the latter is true of the production directed by Mark Ramont at Ford's Theatre in Washington. The actors give solid performances but the play comes across as remote; the staging innovations intended to bring the script closer to the viewer often seem gimmicky.

Williams was a poet as well as a playwright, so he uses symbolism and special effects, notably music, to tell the story of his upbringing in Depression-era St. Louis. The author's stand-in Tom Wingfield (Tom Story) steps in and out of time, narrating from a future point and periodically moving into the past when he lived with his overbearing mother Amanda (Madeleine Potter) and his withdrawn but deeply loving sister Laura (Jenna Sokolowski).

Sokolowski anchors the production with her luminous performance as Laura, displaying the character's emotional pain and flashes of joy in her shifting facial expressions and careful walk—Laura limps as a result of a childhood illness. Potter plays Amanda as a woman who has never really grown up despite (or perhaps because of) the difficulties she has faced; she retains her girlish, coy manner of speaking even when she confronts her children with anger or frustration. Thomas Keegan is vital and charming as Jim O'Connor, the "gentleman caller" Tom brings home to meet Laura.

Story has done fine work in other plays, but as Tom he stays too aloof from the drama. The action of the play comes from his memories, but Ramont downplays direct interaction between Tom and the other characters, tending instead toward flourishes of stagecraft. (The two moments in the play that should suggest violence are depicted as if from a distance, through pantomime and sound effects.)

The designers also go for visual clues in place of emotional truth. Timothy R. Mackabee's scenic design incorporates both realistic elements, such as the network of fire escapes outside the family apartment and piles of discarded furniture at each side of the stage. A sheer curtain that periodically covers the rear wall of the set serves as a screen for Clint Allen's black-and-white video projections, which blend images of Amanda and Laura with scenes from the movies Tom uses to escape from the boredom of his life. On the other hand, Dan Covey's lighting design inspires empathy with its washes of color to set moods.

Ford's Theatre
The Glass Menagerie
January 25th - February 21st, 2016
By Tennessee Williams
Tom Wingfield: Tom Story
Amanda Wingfield: Madeleine Potter
Laura Wingfield: Jenna Sokolowski
Jim O'Connor: Thomas Keegan
Directed by Mark Ramont
511 Tenth St., N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-347-4833 or www.fords.org


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