For those looking to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the American theatrical tradition, the works of Tennessee Williams are paramount. Williams’s plays, including well-known dramas such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, are classics of the genre — as is The Glass Menagerie, a play of worn and weary Southern elegance lost to familial decay. The play vaulted Williams to prominence within American theatrical culture, and the show has retained dramatic potency through the decades. This June, PCPA presents Williams’s drama for the Solvang Festival Theater, giving area viewers the chance to see this decadent, intimate performance under the stars.
Once upon a time, Amanda Wingfield was a Southern belle of societal prominence. After being left by her husband, Amanda finds herself a down-and-out slave to memories of happier days. Living in an undesirable flat in St. Louis with her two adult children, Amanda scrapes by on her son Tom’s meager warehouse-worker salary. While Amanda dreams of the past, Tom dreams of a future away from the overbearing will of his mother and the obligation to care for his sister, Laura. Laura, who has a limp from a childhood case of polio and shows signs of social impairment, has little likelihood of finding a husband. Laura’s emotional escape is her vast collection of glass figurines — a delicate menagerie she protects and treasures.
Narrated from recollection, protagonist Tom admits that the events he presents may be tarnished by the impreciseness of memory. Yet this filter of remembrance adds a layer of personal investment to the play. Amanda is fixated on finding a husband for her daughter and convinces Tom to bring potential “gentleman callers” to the house to meet Laura. Tom finally acquiesces to his mother’s demands and invites a coworker to have dinner with the family. The man in question, Jim O’Connor, is an acquaintance from high school with whom Laura was secretly smitten, and the meeting turns awkward. Secrets are revealed, and the family, at the cusp of hope for the future, sees the truth of their fading way of life.
PCPA’s production is directed by Roger DeLaurier and features Kitty Balay as Amanda Wingfield, Sierra Wells as Laura Wingfield, and Jordan Stidham as Jim O’Connor, the “gentleman caller.” Recent Indy Award winner Matt Koenig will portray Tom Wingfield.
PCPA’s production of The Glass Menagerie plays June 16-26 at Solvang Festival Theater, 420 2nd Street, Solvang. For tickets and information, see pcpa.org or call (805) 922-8313.