This Tuesday, the Saint John Theatre Company debuted The Glass Menagerie directed by Dean Turner. The classic memory play – where the main character is also narrator – was written by Tennessee Williams, the playwright responsible for A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959).
The play is about what could be perhaps the saddest family of St. Louis, Missouri – The Wingfields. First, we have the mother, Amanda, the Southern belle whose husband left her alone with a crippled daughter and a son who reminds her all too much of her departed husband. The daughter Laura suffers an inferiority complex from growing up with a brace on her leg. She was what they called in the 1940’s a homegirl. Too shy to even make it through more than a few days of her typing course to earn some independence for herself, she spends her days at home waiting on a gentleman caller. Her brother Tom, the main provider for the family, was forced to take on menial work at the local warehouse to help his family maintain an income instead of pursuing his ambitions as a poet.
Incessant fighting between her brother and mother led Laura to seek solace in her glass trinket collection of animals, the so-called glass menagerie, living in her own make-believe world. I’ll leave it at that for fear of spoiling it on anyone who may be experiencing this award-winning play for the first time. If that sounds like you, you’re going to love it! Maybe bring a tissue.
Playing Tom was Keith Tyler MacLennan. MacLennan has starred in several SJTC productions including The Great Gatsby, where he played Nick Carraway, as well as Betrayal and The War Bride. MacLennan did a superb job and it was a pleasure to see him onstage again. He recently completed his MA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies with the University of Toronto, and it certainly shows. His portrayal of Tom brought such depth to the character, a compliment I can most definitely extend to the rest of the cast.
This is Catherine Sutherland’s first major role, though she’s an experienced theatre crew member and backstage dresser. Her portrayal of Laura was stunning. She portrayed Laura precisely how you imagine her – shy and meek yet sweet and endearing. She brought such authenticity to the role and did a superb rendition of Laura, particularly in her moving performance in the second act. I can’t wait to see her in more local productions!
Christina Isbill, who played Amanda, is another seasoned actress with the SJTC. This was her eighth show with them, formerly staring in The Drowning Girls, The Great Gatsby and others. Her performance of Amanda was astounding. She was the ultimate Southern belle and had a very realistic accent. Moreover, she was able to display such a wide range of character – from a mother who incessantly nags her children, to someone who genuinely loves and sacrifices for her family, to a tragic woman living in nostalgia. She was a delight to watch.
In the role of the gentleman caller, is Cameron Secord. He, likewise, did a fantastic job. Secord worked with the SJTC this past year in The Boys in the Band and East of Berlin. His dedication to theatre was evident in his performance of Jim. Though he had less stage time than his cast mates, as his role was mostly in the second act, he certainly held his own and delivered an equally strong performance.
Do not miss this show! Even if you saw The Glass Menagerie performed before, Dean Turner did an amazing job as director and the intimate space of the BMO Studio Theatre brings the audience so close to these unforgettable characters.
The show goes on tonight and tomorrow in Saint John at 7:30 at the BMO Studio Theatre. It then moves to St. Stephen for October 24th, to Sussex on October 26th and finally to Riverview on October 28th. Check out the SJTC’s website for more information on how to get tickets.