Pillbox

Pittsburgh Public Theater stages Williams classic

Laura (Cathryn Wake) is a frail and emotional girl who is called upon by the The Gentleman Caller (Jordan Whalen) in one of the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production's most powerful character pairings. (credit: Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Public Theater) Laura (Cathryn Wake) is a frail and emotional girl who is called upon by the The Gentleman Caller (Jordan Whalen) in one of the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production's most powerful character pairings. (credit: Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Public Theater)

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Pittsburgh Public Theater opened its season on Oct. 2 with the same play it opened its doors with 40 years ago: Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

The Glass Menagerie tells the story of a disjointed family of three. Breaking under the tedium of a monotonous life, Tom dreams of abandoning his sister, Laura, and mother, Amanda Wingfield, to seek adventure as his father did, while his mother tries desperately to find a suitor for his mentally and physically frail sister.

There are no new character interpretations in this production, but Cathryn Wake and Jordan Whalen are satisfactory as Laura and The Gentleman Caller, respectively. The most problematic character (Tom) is played by Fisher Neal, whose rigid inflection erased the sincerity from his words; however, his performance, as well as all the other cast members, was elevated by the dynamic performance by Lynne Wintersteller (Amanda, the mother). With a fast and sharp southern accent, Wintersteller brings depth to a character that is usually defined solely for being unable to move past her glory days of young.

She not only exemplifies a nostalgic woman past her prime, but makes the audience believe that her character does truly care about her children.

Wintersteller’s success is only matched by the design team of this production. The set is the first floor of a house, raised on a jarring octagonal platform that hints at future dissonance. At first, the house seems inviting, but upon further inspection one can see that the furniture is mismatched, there is a stain on the couch, and the pillows are ornate, but raggedy. It is as if the family is trying too desperately to cover up household flaws, especially in the second act; when more “stuff” — a fringed floor lamp, a silver candlestick on top of a disproportionally small dining table, a rug that quite literally covers another rug up — is added, it is obvious that this family has something to hide.

While there was no new revelation at the end of this production, it is a solid performance worth seeing. The Pittsburgh Public Theater decided to honor the American classic that was the first show it ever produced and did so with dignity and success.