Westfield High School
It's the late 1930s and America, on the brink of another war, is struggling to break itself out of the ever-present shadow of the Great Depression. Amidst this national turmoil, one particular man, Tom Wingfield, suffocates in the grasp of his overbearing mother, grapples with the absence of his father, and must forego his personal ambitions to support his suffering family. This bleak yet reminiscent reality was captured commendably by The New School of Northern Virginia in their production of The Glass Menagerie.
The most autobiographical of his plays, Tennessee Williams combined his powerfully poetic writing style, elements from his own life, and the history of the late 1930s to create this uniquely reflective piece of southern gothic literature, The Glass Menagerie. From its premiere in 1944 to its Broadway debut in 1945, The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, in which the heartbreaking themes of love, bitterness, and abandonment quickly became a fan favorite.
The New School of Northern Virginia's choice to perform the Glass Menagerie was a bold one, as performing an entire production with a four-person cast is a demanding task. However, they tackled this assignment admirably, as each cast member took on a unique persona that provided a contrast between characters, but also meshed together exquisitely to resemble the family dynamic of a struggling, middle-class family in the 1930s.
Mia Morgan's performance as Amanda Wingfield commanded the stage with a memorable spirit. Engrossing the audience, Morgan quivered her lip, raised her voice, and paced back and forth in moments of stress, displaying Amanda's well-intended but nagging tendencies. Furthermore, Morgan's tightened speech, pointed glances towards the portrait of Amanda's absent husband, and strained gesticulations all culminated into an unforeseen breakdown at the end of the show, as Amanda's delicate house of cards crumbled.
The unicorn to everyone else's horse, Emily Ocasio embodied Laura Wingfield's shy, introverted nature impeccably throughout her performance. Ocasio consistently fiddled with nearly every object that she came into contact with, from her dress, hair, hands, and even a stick of gum, to represent Laura's anxiety-ridden emotions. Moreover, in scenes with Jim O'Connor (Noah Freedman), Laura's gentleman caller, Ocasio's gestures opened and became larger to display Laura's character growth and comfortable ease with Jim. However, once Jim's deception of Laura became apparent, Ocasio's shoulders became hunched and guarded as a way to represent the loss of any previous character development and also Laura's now closed-off emotional state.
Jonas Walker and Nguyen Dang's set design utilized various colors and set dressing to represent each character's personality: a drab, faded brown porch for Tom's disheveled nature, eloquent pillows and intricate table mats for Amanda, and a small, slightly concealed corner of paper animals for shy and meek Laura. Featuring a loosely painted wallpaper and a consistent color scheme, the set provided an immersive experience for the audience, transporting them straight into the dismally solemn state of the Wingfield's home.
Ruminative and exceptionally moving, The New School of Northern Virginia's take of this classic memory play, The Glass Menagerie, was bold, touching, and sure to leave a mark on the audience's own memory.
McLean High School
"The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental – it is not realistic." With these words, narrator Tom Wingfield slowly paces in front of the set and warns the audience that his story may be inaccurate or inadequate. However, The New School's production of "The Glass Menagerie" was anything but. In crafting this memory piece, The New School utilized simplistic yet effective technical elements and powerful performances to convey a story of familial responsibility and unfulfilled desire.
Written by Tennessee Williams, "The Glass Menagerie" premiered on Broadway in 1945. The show is known for its autobiographical elements as the characters of Amanda and Laura are inspired by Williams' own mother and sister. The story is narrated by Tom Wingfield, a middle-aged man who speaks directly to the audience and leads them into scenes from his memories. These scenes take place in a quaint apartment in St. Louis in the late 1930's and focus on a younger Tom who feels trapped in a warehouse job but aspires to be a writer. Living with Tom are his sister Laura, who is incredibly shy and physically fragile, and his mother Amanda, an aging Southern belle who is determined to find Laura a husband. The fifth character of the play is stated to be Tom's father, "a telephone man who fell in love with long distance," who is shown in a portrait hanging on the wall.
Ryelyn Doherty portrayed Tom Wingfield, leading the show with an assured stage presence from the first line of the opening soliloquy. Doherty's pacing in many scenes showcased Tom's quick wit and his often intense glare and exhausted mannerisms illustrated his pessimistic outlook on life. Mia Morgan as Amanda Wingfield commanded the stage throughout the performance with a light southern accent and dazzling charm. Morgan's stern attitude and animated expressions created many comedic moments, but her range was also showcased in vulnerable scenes with Tom in which she appeared a concerned mother desperate for her children to succeed.
Emily Ocasio played the introverted Laura Wingfield with impressive consistency. Her nervous ticks such as wringing her hands, playing with her hair, and shifting her feet were present in every scene and displayed Laura's feelings even when she was not speaking. Ocasio excelled in actively listening to the characters around her, and also in demonstrating Laura's peaceful side, such as when she was with her glass animals or conversing with Jim, through soft smiles and open body language. Noah Freedman as Jim was the perfect contrast to Laura's apprehensive demeanor, with charisma and confidence in every movement, but a slightly patronizing tone in his lines.
The minimalistic style of the show called for few technical elements, but they were compelling, nonetheless. The hair and makeup designed by Libby Miller was fitting for each character, specifically the slicked back hair and slight beard on Tom that gave him a disheveled appearance in comparison to the organized look of Amanda with her sleek bun and bright makeup. The stage management done by Jason Wood was another standout with the music and light cues timed perfectly to each moment in order to bring the audience into a new memory.
The trials and tribulations of a depression-era family may seem like a daunting subject to most, but The New School's performance of "The Glass Menagerie" proved that a wonderful story lives within the relationships of this family, their dreams for the future, and a little glass unicorn.