Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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‘The Glass Menagerie’ at Georgia Shakespeare

2011 October 27

Travis Smith and Bethany Anne Lind; Photo: Bill DeLoach

Georgia Shakespeare keeps getting better and better. Not that it wasn’t good, but the past two shows I’ve seen there have been outstanding, and “The Glass Menagerie “ is no exception. Thanks, greatly, to two outstanding actors Mary Lynn Ownen, who plays Amanda Wingfield, and Joe Knezevich, who plays her son, Tom.

Knezevich, is fast becoming my factor actor in this town. I’ve seen him in a number of shows in the past couple of years, and he is always a standout. He’s different from one show to the next. He steps out of his own shoes and becomes someone totally different. And while you might think that’s what acting is—you’d be totally right—far too many actors in this town don’t do it. Not only does he change from role to role, he changes within the role he’s playing. One moment he’s a lout, the next moment he’s charming, the next, a raving maniac. Not at all unlike Owen. While I don’t remember seeing her in other shows, she is a consummate actress. She does the unexpected—charming her son one moment and raging at him the next. In one standout screaming match between the two of them, it was so real I wanted to stop it.

Now I’m going to be picky here and tell you about a few of the flaws.

Laura Wingfiled (Bethany Anne Lind), Tom’s “crippled” sister, holds the story together as the poor, lost, sweet soul who can’t do anything all day but play the gramophone and play with her miniature glass animals. Lind’s acting is believable as Laura but predictable and one dimensional. Laura has worn  a leg brace since she was a child. Although Laura is more crippled in mind than body, Lind forgets that she is supposed to have some difficulty walking. Lind misses the mark sometimes. For example, when her “gentleman caller” Jim O’Connor (Travis Smith), accidentally breaks the unicorn she adores most in her collection of horses, she is barely saddened.

There is one flaw that I hope Georgia Shakespeare fixes: On opening night when Jim picked up a newspaper, there were only large sheets of flimsy paper with no print on it. The rest of the scene was so real that the surprise of seeing no print took me and my companion right out of the scene and put us inside a theater wondering why there was no print on the newspaper.

Here is why you have to see this show: Mary Lynn Owen and Joe Knezevich. Every time I see Knezevich in anything he is outstanding. I’ve seen Jessica Tandy play Amanda on Broadway. Ms. Owen, your performance was no less than hers.

Kat Conley has created a simple set that reeks of shattered dreams against a backdrop of shattered shards of glass.

“The Glass Menagerie” runs through Oct. 30 at Georgia Shakespeare.

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Brandon Thompson permalink
    October 28, 2011

    And with this review, I have decided to discontinue my “stopping by” on this blog. I appreciate someone who takes the time to take in so many of the arts events in our community but having seen Glass Menagerie at GA Shakespeare (twice now) I would hate for your views to influence anything that I may or may not see in the future.

    As far as performances go you are dead right about Knezevich and Owen (an actress who has been outstanding again and again, I’m not sure how you’ve missed her). As the leads in this show, they carry it exquisitely and it’s hard to imagine ever seeing another Tom or Amanda quite live up. However, you either must have seen a completely different performance from Lind than I did or your “view” must be obstructed by something of which I am unaware. Her scene with Smith (who you almost failed to mention as a delightful “gentleman caller”) was the most beautiful and heartbreaking I have ever seen from this over-done and normally clumsily done scene. Having read the script multiple times, I will remind you that Williams himself said that Laura’s “limp” was to only be merely suggested by the actress. And as for the unicorn moment, Lind’s choice to be so swept away by the “caller” so much so that the unicorn no longer matters, makes absolute (and far more than one-dimensional or predictable) sense. Consequently, the ending of the scene is all that much more devastating as well. Smith and Lind have such chemistry and are so specific in their playing of this scene that I found myself rooting for them from a deeper place than I even realized I had invested.

    But HERE is the main reason I can no longer take the time to read your opinions: the blank newspaper. Like the empty plates, the father sometimes appearing sometimes not, the grey costumes and set and furniture – the newspaper is also one of those blurred and unspecific memories. It is a memory play “it is not realistic” and under Richard Garner’s beautiful direction (another strikingly obvious omission from your review) we are able to see what Tom sees. Some of our memories are grey, dull, blank while others are so vivid and bright they feel right with us, until we are able to “blow our candles out” on them — so to speak. If you could not gain that from your viewing of this heartbreaking play which we Atlantans will be remembering for a long time to come, I wonder if you saw the same play the rest of us did.

  2. November 12, 2011

    Hi Brandon,

    We all cannot agree on what makes something good or bad. To me and my companion, the blank newspaper stood out to both of us, and took us out of our reality. We believed the scene. And then there was a blank newspaper, and for us, it did not work. But it obviously worked well for you.

    I have seen the movie a couple of times and saw it on Broadway with Jessica Tandy and Amanda Plummer. I am sure that affects my expectations and experience of the show.

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