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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tennessee Williams' Trio of Torn Souls

Strong performances highlight APT's 'Glass Menagerie'

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An enormous photo of a smug-looking young man, circa 1930s, looks out at the audience and down on the scene of emotional destruction his past actions have wrought. He is as dominant as the trio of torn souls occupying the stage in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, which opened last week in American Players Theatre's intimate Touchstone Theatre, and no less responsible for the circumstances.

As Williams' “memory play” and the author's most autobiographical work, Menagerie chronicles the desperate lives of Amanda Wingfield (Sarah Day), a former Southern belle whose suitors long ago stopped calling; her daughter Laura (Susan Shunk), physically disabled, painfully shy and lost to a world of tiny glass animals; and her son Tom (Darragh Kennan), a warehouse worker longing to escape the dreary St. Louis apartment in which they live. Tom also narrates the play as a stand-in for Williams, whose real name was Thomas.

Director Aaron Posner mixes the emotionally damaged family in a narrative of disappointed dreams with a deft hand, adding the spice of false optimism with the introduction of Jim O'Connor (Marcus Truschinski), Tom's warehouse colleague and hoped-for suitor of Laura who narrowly escapes the Wingfields' emotional despair.

The characters are no less fragile than the animals in Laura's collection. Thanks to strong performances throughout, they repeatedly show how easy they are to break.

American Players Theatre's The Glass Menagerie continues through Oct. 15.