REVIEW: Sardonic Humor in Glass Menagerie (Guthrie Theater) – Twin Cities Arts Reader

Posted: September 28, 2019 at 5:44 pm

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Grayson DeJesus (as Jim OConnor) and Carey Cox (as Laura Wingfield) in the Guthrie Theaters production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, now playing at the Guthries Wurtele Thrust Stage in Minneapolis. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

Memories are a tricky thing. As recounted by Tom in the prologue toThe Glass Menagerie, they are sentimental, not realistic. If you look up sentimental in Merriam-Webster, however, youll find that director Joseph Haj has not gone with the common definition of the term. Instead, the Guthries new production of Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie follows the alternate: having an excess of sentiment or sensibility. This excess is expertly mined from opening to ending, yielding much sardonic humor.

This derisive, disdainful quality is the lifeblood and throughline of this production. Jennifer Van Dycks Amanda Wingfield becomes an avatar of Southern vigor and lost causes great and small, constantly grabbing at, poking, and manipulating Remy Auberjonois ever-more-frustrated Tom towards misdirected self-improvement. Its really fun to watch, and laces each scene with ticking time bomb after ticking time bomb ofschadenfreude and dramatic bloodsport.

Effective sardonicism, like satire, requires a commitment to cause and character to truly resound. While the broader motions may be exaggerated by that filter of excess, Hajs talented cast holds back from outright parody, creating a tension that wraps successive layers around action and reaction. Watch Auberjonoiss Tom tremble on the cusp of an apology and see Van Dycks Amanda delight in an old dress and you start to sympathize with the characters, even as you laugh at them.

As splendid as Tennessee Williams writing is, every production ofThe Glass Menagerie hinges on the Gentleman Caller scenes. Hajs design team saves many of its choicest touches for the extended encounter between Laura (Carey Cox) and the Gentleman Caller Jim OConnor (Grayson DeJesus) a scene as poignant and magical in its delivery as it is, ultimately, tragic in the narrative. If Toms quest for his own space and privacy is the overarching narrative, this is the alternate counterpoint. Together, theyre a powerful pair.

The Glass Menagerieruns through October 27 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.

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REVIEW: Sardonic Humor in Glass Menagerie (Guthrie Theater) - Twin Cities Arts Reader

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September 28th, 2019 at 5:44 pm

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