Most of the plays of Tennessee Williams are downers, unsettling glimpses into families and relationships where self-deception is a survival tactic.
But, even his darkest plays are poetic, and sometimes tender, especially “The Glass Menagerie.” And, the Yellowstone Repertory Theatre embraces that with its staging of Williams’ break-out play, which continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s being presented in the Black Box at the Nova Center for the Performing Arts downtown at 2317 Montana Ave.
Other companies have experimented with updating Williams’ classic 1930s dysfunctional family. Yellowstone Rep sticks mostly with the intent of Williams’ original stage notes.
Tom Wingfield, the son who yearns to be a poet but is stuck working with rough men in a dead-end warehouse job, is played by Chas Llewellyn, who drifts around the intentionally claustrophobic set in a peacoat, smoking and dreaming of escape. The tension in Llewellyn’s portrayal is more from Tom’s frustration than anger.
"Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse," Tom says at one point.
And when Tom does get what he wants, he’s filled with guilt.
“The world is lit by lightning,” he says.
His mother, the faded and abandoned Southern belle, Amanda Wingfield, is played spectacularly by veteran area actress Dina Brophy. Amanda’s often cringy speeches tumble in great cascades of words that Brophy delivers with breathless, naive charm.
But, it’s Caitlin Hart, who plays the disabled and pathologically shy daughter Laura Wingfield, who embodies the play’s heartbreaking futility. Hart plays the sweet but deeply wounded girl so convincingly that it’s a bit of a shock when she snaps out of character in the end to take her bow.
Dan Nickerson plays Jim O’Connor, the “gentleman caller” as a true gentleman, rather than the cad he's sometimes portrayed as.
With challenging plays like “Doubt” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and now “The Glass Menagerie,” the Yellowstone Rep troupe has established itself as fearless and completely capable of taking on challenging works.
The company's next show this season, "Crimes of the Heart" by Beth Henley, plays June 8-23. The play is the winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It premiered in February 1979, at the Great American Play Contest at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. YRT Artistic Director Craig Huisenga will direct.