It's not every day that we are reminded of why it is that we go to the theatre to see performances on display in a live setting. Howland Company & 73H's production of The Glass Menagerie, playing at The Theatre Centre, brings to light the poetry of the human condition and helps us understand why it is important to keep such plays alive in contemporary society.
Walking into the venue, what first caught my eye was the way in which the stage was set up (designed by Adriana Bogaard). With such an incredibly bleak-looking set, void of any colour, it seemed as though I was already given a glimpse into the dysfunction and constriction that conjured the emotionally damaged characters I was about to meet.
Though the colours seemed to fit the overall aesthetic of the performance, it felt as though the discontinuity between the script and the props may have been slightly off-putting. For example, the script mentions a character who plays old phonograph records, but on stage, said character is clearly shown listening to CDs on a modern stereo system.
The staging later displayed an effective use of levels, as the second act revealed an upper layer of the stage which was used as a dining room, creating balance for the overall setting.
The pseudo-theatre-in-the-round set up was interesting, though the more square dimensions offered some challenges that affected the performance in terms of staging. At times, it felt as though certain characters had their backs to the audience for a prolonged period of time, hiding many of the intricacies brought to life in their interactions with other performers.
The lighting scheme (designed by Jareth Li) was an integral part of the atmosphere, providing a very bleak fluorescent look for most of the first act. The second act, in contrast, was lit with candlelight and softer yellow tones that cradled the cast in a bed of warmth, helping paint the soft veil that was safely hiding the dysfunction of the family.
Though the entire cast managed to turn the room into a pressure cooker of anxiety, the performance that particularly caught my eye was that of actor Hannah Spear with her portrayal of Laura Wingfield. Though it wasn't particularly clear as to what her illness was on the surface, during her performance she exposed herself in a way that provided incredible insight into not only the mind of her character, but the objective truths behind anyone's natural fear of the outside world. In doing so, her ticks and expressions created an infectious and potent display of distress and emotional exhaustion, penetrating the human psyche in a way that kept her both exposed, and a fascinating enigma.
Though the production had a few kinks that could've been undone, I'd say the overall experience was an enlightening one, with a cast of delicately painted characters that were supported by a production with a live beating heart.
Directed by Philip Mckee, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie runs until Sept. 11 at The Theatre Centre. Tickets can be purchased here https://howlandcompanytheatre.com/shows/the-glass-menagerie/