The Glass Menagerie, which just concluded a quick two-week run at the Solvang Festival Theater, made a great choice to open PCPA’s summer season there. While one ordinarily associates theater under the stars with Shakespeare or with musicals, this American classic felt wonderfully appropriate and perfectly at home in the chilly night air of a Solvang Wednesday in June. Longtime PCPA faculty member Kitty Balay gave a terrific performance in the role of Amanda Wingfield, the flighty, yet determined matriarch at the center of Williams’ drama. There’s room in the script for any number of interpretations of Amanda’s willful nature; Balay chose to play her as a woman of passion, driven to dwell on the past by the shortcomings of her presents situation rather than out of an ascetic’s withdrawal from life. She’s dead set against the drinking of alcohol, for example, but she wouldn’t consider setting the dinner table for a guest without providing some wine.
Matt Koenig’s Tom Wingfield was by turns steely with confidence in his superior intellect and paralyzed by the fear of losing what little connection he has to the world. Koenig delivered the play’s narrative passages beautifully, his voice merging with the mist that drifted through the stage lights as the evening progressed to create a gauzy background to this memory play. Although the first act sets up the struggle between Tom and Amanda as the play’s central conflict, in act two, Laura Wingfield, played by Sierra Wells, and Jim O’Connor (Jordan Stidham) have a wonderful long scene that very nearly outdoes what has come before. Stidham played the well-meaning but hopelessly unavailable Jim superbly, and Sierra Wells broke our hearts with a series of breathtaking extended reactions, demonstrating that a daughter’s silence could speak louder than all of a mother’s bluster. Congratulations to the cast and to Roger DeLaurier for directing this outstanding production of a true American classic.