Portsmouth Little Theatre (PLT) is preparing to open curtain on the Tennessee Williams classic “The Glass Menagerie” come this weekend.
The show is one of the most famous plays in modern theatre and follows the lives of the Wingfield family.
The plot, according to Dramatists, which licensed the show to PLT, “Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of southern gentility, who lives in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother’s nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect is intensified by her mother’s anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself. The crux of the action comes when Tom invites a young man of his acquaintance to take dinner with the family. Jim, the caller, is a nice ordinary fellow who is at once pounced upon by Amanda as a possible husband for Laura.”
The story is a memory play that has strong autobiographical elements based on the early life of Williams. Director Kasie Leightenheimer chose the show, having heavily studied the material in school, where she developed a love of Williams and his groundbreaking play.
“I love Tennessee Williams and everything he does, from his one-acts to his larger plays,” Leightenheimer explained. “I studied his work a lot in college and I think it is just perfection.”
She also chose the classic as a way to get a break from holiday shows.
“They are all delightful and wonderful for this time of the year, but, for us, we really wanted to avoid the lack of holiday scripts that are circulating around” Leightenheimer explained of her decision to steer from holiday shows. “To me, nothing says holidays like familial dysfunction and I decided this one would be perfect.”
According to the director, the show’s writing is done in a way that characters are relatable and people often feel close to the actors as they act the story.
“I think everyone will find a little bit of everything in the show,” Leightenheimer said. “It is rated PG, so kids could come, but I don’t know if they’d find it interesting enough to captivate. I think anyone who has had tense moments with the people they love very much will see a little bit of themselves in the show. People often see others in these characters, particularly with the character Amanda, who is the mother. We’ve heard from so many people that Amanda is their mother.”
While dysfunction is a heavy aspect of the show, Leightenheimer explained that the story comes with lessons for patrons to take away.
“It is not all necessarily bad. I think patrons will be able to come away from it knowing they should hold people a little tighter this holiday season, and put aside differences, because, once you become separated by time, or something greater, they fade all too quickly.”
Of the four actors in the show, most are new to the stage, outside of theatre veteran Julie Buckler. The director said that she is pleased with her cast, explaining that they all work together well.
The set has also been designed to be more abstract and purposely minimal, in part of two reasons. The focus of the show is intended to be the dialogue and the storytelling abilities of the actors. Leightenheimer felt an extravagant set would distract the audience from the events in the story. She also felt that a memory play needs more abstract touches that separate it from traditional theatre, concreting the fact that it is all being told as a memory.
“The Glass Menagerie” will open curtain on December 4, 5, 11, and 12. All showings begin at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $12. Reduced admission for students and seniors is $10. Portsmouth Little Theatre is at 1117 Lawson Street, Portsmouth. For more information on Portsmouth Little Theatre, or their ongoing season, reach someone through the official Facebook page.
“I think the show will be a breath of fresh air, among these fun, heart-warming holiday shows. It is really going to appeal to these other sort of emotions that hang around during the holidays,” Leightenheimer said. “I hope to see a lot of people in the seats.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.