Theater Preview: Personal strife brings dynamic characters to life in The Glass Menagerie

By Peter Hernandez
The Guardsman

David Williams rehearses Susan Jackson's production of The Glass Menagerie at Diego Rivera Theater Oct. 29, 2011. MICHAEL NERO / THE GUARDSMAN

With an intimate four-person cast portraying a dysfunctional family Tennessee Williams’ groundbreaking play “The Glass Menagerie” debuting at City College on Nov. 4 peers into a troubled world with incredible grace.
Escapism and self-reflection are at the core of this Southern story set during the Great Depression. When a father abandons his family an overbearing and critical mother is left to raise her disabled and socially inept daughter and conflicted son.
Edna Rodis plays the overbearing mother Amanda Wingfield whose elegant yet confrontational composure creates a contradiction for her emotionally torn children.

“Then go to the moon, you selfish dreamer!” Amanda says to her son after denouncing him as useless when he attempts play matchmaker between his sister and an engaged man.

Rodis personally understands the caring complexities of motherhood as she draws on her own struggle to mother a child who wants some distance.

“It’s a universal story,” said director and City College theater instructor Susan Jackson speaking of the empathic nature of family drama.

“Even if you know nothing about Southern mentality, you know something about annoying mothers,” she said.

Jackson, an avowed Williams fan, also directed “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Night of the Iguana” at City College’s Diego Rivera Theater. Edna Rodis starred in those as well.

Tennessee Williams’ catalogue of plays are defined by his characters’ inner struggles and apparent indecision creating a quintessentially tragic situation.

“He goes straight for the emotions,” said Jackson.

The son in the play is Tom Wingfield a conflicted man who performs menial work in a warehouse to support his family while longing for the life of a movie star and writer. His character parallels Tennessee Williams’ life.

Actor David Williams’ weak and indecisive tone complements Tom’s inner struggles, while his sophisticated personality and stocky movements create a compelling contradiction in itself.

Laura Wingfield, played by the delicate and cheery Diana Robles, has a permanent limp and an introverted social demeanor. She lingers over her  father’s possessions, including his old records and victrola.

“She’s kind of agoraphobic,” said Robles.

External struggles and ironies occur, such as Laura’s eventual friendship with Jim O’Conner, played by Alexander Watson. Laura’s brother invites him for a visit only to learn that he is already engaged.

Like many of Jackson’s productions, an element of hope concludes the tragedy.
“I think Laura has some hope at the end. She broke her shyness and made a connection,” said Jackson, referring to Laura’s relationship with O’Conner.
These delicate personal dramas create a brooding relationship in the Wingfield’s small Southern apartment, and the drama spirals with gripping emotional scenes that celebrate the fabric of Tennessee Williams’ expertly-crafted dramas.
The play is also considered to be Williams’ most autobiographical piece. Williams’ own brutish father abandoned his family leaving his mother to raise him and his mentally handicapped sister. Perhaps his mother was as overbearing as Amanda Wingfield.


Fri Nov 4 and 18: 8pm
Sat Nov 5 and 19: 2pm
Sat Nov 12: 8pm
Sun Nov 13: 2pm

General Admission $15
Students, Seniors, TBA Members $10

Ocean Campus in the Diego Rivera Theatre
Tickets available at the door;  Advance reservations can be made online at:
The Guardsman