THEATRE: The Glass Menagerie

TIED TOGETHER: Renee Thomas, Mitchell Cox and Lesly Stevenson. Picture: Peter StoopWHEN American playwright Tennessee Williams listed his first Broadway hit, The Glass Menagerie, as ‘‘a memory play’’ he wasn’t kidding.
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Three of its four characters were based on himself, his mother and his sister. And the emotions he felt from family relationships come through movingly in the play.

DAPA Theatre, which had a big hit last year with a later work of Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, is staging The Glass Menagerie at its Hamilton venue for a season from May 23.

The cast includes Lesly Stevenson as Amanda Wingfield, a mother who is trying to ensure that her elder child, crippled daughter Laura (Renee Thomas), gets a husband who will care for her.

Amanda’s husband left her while the children were still infants and she wants to prevent her two offspring from experiencing the insecurity she has had.

She asks son Tom (Mitchell Cox) to bring a gentleman caller to dinner, in the hope that he will be attracted to Laura. Tom eventually gives in to his mother’s badgering by getting a workmate, Jim (Lee Mayne), to come to their St Louis home for a meal.

The story is introduced by Tom, who looks back at his life before he left home to escape his mother’s badgering, which is what Tennessee Williams also did.

Director Pamela Whalan notes that the family members do care for each other, but they often go the wrong way about showing it.

‘‘Amanda has a lot to worry about but she’s often in denial, refusing to accept that Laura is crippled,’’ she said.

The play’s title comes from Laura’s collection of small glass animals, delicate objects that mirror her fragile inner life.

Renee Thomas points out that Laura blames herself for not being as able or, in her view, as pretty as other young women.

The Glass Menagerie is set in the late 1930s when the Great Depression, which caused massive joblessness, was nearing its end.

Tom is pleased that he was able to get a job in a shoe warehouse, though he wants to be a poet.

First staged on Broadway in 1945, The Glass Menagerie continues to be an acclaimed play. Tennessee Williams donated half the royalties from productions of The Glass Menagerie to the care of his sister.

Ironically, despite needing constant medical treatment as a result of a botched lobotomy in the early 1940s, the sister, Rose, outlived Tennessee, dying in 1996, 13 years after he passed away.

The Glass Menagerie opens at the DAPA Theatre, 145 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, on Friday, May 23, and plays on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm, plus 2pm Saturday matinees, until June 7, with a 2pm Sunday matinee on June 1. Tickets: $27, concession $24. Bookings: 49623270; 0416252446.