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Coach House’s ‘Glass Menagerie’ ‘outstanding’

3/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Dede Klein, Joe Pine and Jeremy Jenkins star in Coach House Theatre’s production of “The Glass Menagerie.”
Photo courtesy of Coach House Theatre
WEST AKRON — Memories sometimes clarify the past. A memory may help us cut away the extraneous and focus on the important recollections. “The Glass Menagerie,” on stage through April 6 at Coach House Theatre, is a memory play.

We know it’s a memory play because Tom, the narrator and a character, tells the audience this important bit of information early in the play.

Tennessee Williams wrote this wonderful script, which first appeared on a stage in 1944.

The setting for the memories is a small apartment off an alley in St. Louis in 1937. On these summer nights, the heat of St. Louis singes the Wingfield family. And in 1937, the country had not recovered from the Great Depression and the war in Europe threatened to involve the U.S. Occasionally, a storm crosses St. Louis and thunder and lightning interrupt the memories.

The memories involve Amanda (Dede Kline), who needs to provide for her daughter, Laura (Tess Burgler). Laura is physically disabled and emotionally challenged by being painfully shy. Amanda’s son, Tom (Joe Pine), works in a warehouse and dreams of a writing career and having adventures.

Amanda wants Tom to bring a gentleman caller to dinner. Perhaps this man will fall in love with Laura and provide for her.

The first part of the play is called “Preparation for a Gentleman Caller.” The second part of the script is “The Gentleman Calls.”

The title of the play comes from Laura’s collection of small, delicate glass animals — a glass menagerie.

On the surface this play seems gentle. But, storms rage in the souls of Amanda and Tom. 

The past has become regret and cannot be swept under the carpet. Terrible mistakes were made and those errors echo through the lives of Amanda and her children.

Director Nancy Cates has helped create a compelling production. She is surrounded by four of the best actors in the Akron area.

Kline is at her best as Amanda, the faded southern belle. I noted Kline never let her southern accent slip for even one line.

Pine gives Tom a robust quality I’ve never seen in this role. Pine’s Tom is capable of having an adventure and of taking care of himself.

Burgler makes Laura a frightened, fragile little bird. One can’t help but wonder what happens to a person with the problems of this character.

Jeremy Jenkins (Jim O’Connor) is the gentleman caller. Jenkins creates Jim, who at heart may be as frightened and fragile as Laura, but he’s learned to mask his insecurities and get on with his life. 

Coach House Theatre is offering an outstanding production of a great American play.

For ticket information, call 330-434-7741.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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