The Jamestown Community College Uncommoners will look to connect local audiences with a decades-old Tennessee Williams play in the coming days. Led by director Robert T. Schlick, the Uncommoners will present "The Glass Menagerie," a four-character play, in the college's Scharmann Theater.
"I believe that even though this play was written about 70 years ago, the situations presented ring authentically true to any era," Schlick said. "That's what makes it such a strong piece of writing."
"The Glass Menagerie" follows the story of Amanda Wingfield, who lives in poverty in a St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and daughter, Laura.
Tyler Drew of Randolph, as Tom Wingfield, and Mary Brunacini Hoover of Frewsburg, as Amanda Wingfield, rehearse a scene for the JCC Uncommoners’ production of “The Glass Menagerie,” which will open tonight.
Amanda, played by local actress Mary Brunacini Hoover, attempts to give meaning to her life and those of her children, but her methods are ineffective and irritating.
Tom, played by JCC student Tyler Drew, works in a factory to support Amanda and Laura. He would leave, but jobs are scarce and he loves his emotionally and physically crippled sister, played by fellow student Hillary Belin.
"The Glass Menagerie" takes place in two different time periods. Tom, the narrator, describes the events of the late 1930s several years later as a memory.
The play's intensity jumpstarts when Tom invites his friend, Jim, played by JCC student Maxton Honeychurch, to the Wingfield residence for dinner, and Amanda uses the opportunity to try to find a possible husband for her daughter.
"From the standpoint of a modern audience, the relationship Tom has with his mother is something very familiar to most young men at Tom's age," Schlick said. "As far as Laura herself is concerned, it is hard not to feel empathy for so frail a creature such as she. The parents in the audience will understand how the mother, Amanda, is doing the best she can and thinks she is doing what is right. The family dynamics are very universal and should not be foreign to the average viewer, whether their situation is exactly like theirs or not.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Unlike most plays, Williams required that music be a part of "The Glass Menagerie."
According to Schlick, the play's second act takes place in candlelight, which created a challenge for the cast and crew.
"Naturally, we have enhanced the lighting a bit," he said, "but we have attempted to make this subtle enough so that you still feel the effect of a room lit solely by three candles."
With only four actors and actresses in the production, selecting the cast became an important task for Schlick. He has worked with the performers to help them grasp the play's words and actions.
"I feel very blessed that all four of these actors have really grown in their understanding of the show and are giving such solid performances," he said. "Plus, the cast members feel a kinship with each other, so that helps too."
Performances of "The Glass Menagerie" will take place tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., and Thursday, March 22 through Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the JCC box office at 338-1187. The show runs two hours plus intermission.
Of all of Williams' plays, Schlick is directing his favorite.
"'The Glass Menagerie' is one the most highly respected plays ever written," he said. "Just open any anthology of great plays, and it's more than likely 'The Glass Menagerie' will be in there."