• By: Jennifer Hartley

This Glass Menagerie Shines and Glows

All photos by Michael Green Photography.

Tennessee Williams’ classic play, The Glass Menagerie, is not what you would call upbeat. In fact, it is downright depressing, and what makes it all the more sad is the fact that much of what happens is autobiographical. However, when the brilliantly written play is done well, it can be highly entertaining and a captivating piece of theatre.

The current production of The Glass Menagerie at the Hudson Village Theatre is both of those things and so much more.

The play centres on a struggling family of three, presented through the perspective of Tom Wingfield, one of the main characters, as he looks back in time. Living in poverty, abandoned by his father who worked for the phone company and “fell in love with long distance,” Tom supports his sister and mother by working at a shoe company.

Menagerie 3
Julian Bailey, or Jim O’Connor the ‘gentleman caller,’ speaks with Graham Cuthbertson as Tom Wingfield, Laura’s brother.

Desperate to escape his family to write, he plots his ultimate departure. Amanda, his overbearing, yet charming, mother longs for days gone by when she was the belle of the ball. She also obsesses over finding a partner for her daughter Laura, who suffers from a bad case of low self-esteem, a walking impediment and an altered vision of reality. Tom brings home a colleague from the shoe warehouse, who Amanda hopes will be a “gentleman caller” for Laura. Things do not go as planned.

The production stars Stratford and Shaw veteran Martha Burns, whose portrayal of Southern Belle matriarch Amanda Wingfield is nothing short of epic. This is not surprising, and Burns certainly lives up to her reputation as one of Canada’s theatrical superstars. However, she is not the show’s only bright light.

Graham Cuthbertson perfectly balances the sarcasm, humour and tenderness of his character Tom with a certain intoxicating charm. Furthermore, the chemistry between Cuthbertson and Burns is magical to watch. Shayna Virginillo also holds her own as Laura, Tom’s vulnerable sister. Laura spends her time in her own world made up of her glass menagerie and record player.

Menagerie 2
Shayna Virginillo as Laura Wingfield with Martha Burns, playing her mother, Amanda.

Yet while Virginillo captures her character’s fragility, she paradoxically and beautifully conveys Laura’s strength when things go awry with Jim O’Connor, the “gentleman caller,” played by Julian Bailey. Bailey also delivers a great performance.

The set, costumes and lighting all add to the ambience and are well done, but it’s the acting that truly excels.

Make the one hour 20 minute drive to Hudson, Quebec and see The Glass Menagerie. You won’t regret it. The play runs until July 26.