REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHERYL THORNBURG
For Digital First Media
Complex characters, portrayed by gifted and focused actors give Steel River Playhouse’s production of “The Glass Menagerie” an intimacy that would make playwright Tennessee Williams proud.
Presented in Steel River’s Newberry loft, there is no room for error as the audience is essentially seated in the Winfield home. This cast takes it all in stride, drawing the audience into Williams’ classic drama based on his own life experiences.
Director Stacey Michaud, who is a private voice and group acting instructor at Steel River, has found the perfect cast to deliver the fascinating and multi-layered characters.
John DiFerdinando plays Tom Wingfield the restless young writer who is chafing to break free, but is held back by his sense of duty to his family. Whether narrating or interacting in scenes, his interpretation is spot on, giving the audience glimpses of his frustration, sensitivity and integrity. As Tom, his personality and demeanor changes as he deals with other individuals, just as most people do in real life.
His feisty mother Amanda Wingfield is played by Marianne Green with flair, without being over-the-top. Green skillfully brings a likeability to this single mom who, abandoned by her husband, is struggling with the present while being immersed in memories of her gentile Southern upbringing. Amanda is flamboyant, manipulative and overly controlling of her adult children’s lives and Green somehow gives this complex woman depth and warmth that evokes sympathy.
Laura Wingfield, her crippled daughter, is played by Danielle Owen, whose subtle performance creates not only the traditional painfully shy Laura, but brings out an underlying bravery not noticed by her family. Owen’s carefully nuanced evolution in the second act following the arranged encounter with a gentleman caller gives the play a sense of hope.
Though only on stage in the second act, Matt Zarley makes The Gentleman Caller one of the most likeable and real characters in the play. Zarley brings sincerity and sensitivity to this young man who was invited to dinner by Tom, without being told it was a set-up to meet Tom’s sister. He too gets to show different sides as he hangs out with Tom and turns on the charm for Tom’s mother. His interaction with Owen as Laura is touching and memorable and is the catalyst for change in all their lives.
This is not a trite “happily-ever-after” play. It is a quietly intense portrait of a family that has withstood the test of time and is just as compelling today as when it was written.
Hannah Paczkowski, the understudy for Laura, was not on stage on opening night, but was busy keeping things running smoothly behind the scene.
One of the unique components of this production is the partnership with Montgomery County Community College. MCCC students and staff took charge of the other components of the production. Anna Taylor served as stage manager, Chris Kleckner as technical director, Joe Donely as scenic designer, Kevin Sene as lighting designer, Vince DeSanto as sound designer, Chris Waters as props master and Jillian Hartman as costume designer.
“The Glass Menagerie” continues through Sunday in the Newbery Loft at Steel River Playhouse. Remaining performances are Thursday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15 to $22 and available online at steelriver.org. Online ticket ordering allows audience members to select their seat. Groups of ten or more are eligible for a discount. For more information, call 610-970-1199.
Steel River Playhouse is located at 245 E. High St., Pottstown, 19464.