“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Wow! That’s what happens when an extremely talented director takes on a great American play. And the current production of “The Glass Menagerie” at Seattle Rep is breathtaking. Acting, set, lighting, all work together to provide luminous theatre. Director Braden Abraham decided to play no tricks with the script, to present it as Williams most probably intended it, and what a gift that is.

Tennessee Williams prided himself on turning memory into art. This play opens with Tom (representing the playwright and played with great dignity and power by Ben Huber) saying, “I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” And from then on we are caught up in the battle between truth and illusion.

The Wingfield family, a stand-in for Williams’ own, is headed by mother Amanda whose husband had fled long ago. She, her daughter Laura (heartbreakingly played by Brenda Joyner) and son Tom are living a hardscrabble existence, made tolerable to Amanda only by retreating into exalted remembrances of her youth, memories that probably don’t jibe with reality.

In the marvelous Suzanne Bouchard’s hands, Amanda Wingfield, oppressor of her children, is a woman who talks but can’t listen, a woman who has lost the American dream. Bouchard proves she loves her offspring even as she effectively destroys them. Son Tom, required to give up his own dreams and aspirations, must labor at a dull job that pays the bills. Laura, the pathologically shy, lame sister, unable to cope with the outside world, becomes a trophy by which Amanda hopes to secure the family’s future.

Amanda persuades Tom to invite a man from work, any man, to their home for dinner with the hope of providing a mate for Laura. Eric Riedmann, as the gentleman caller, quite early in the visit recognizes that he’s been brought here for a reason. He’s not a subtle man, but Riedman makes him believably compassionate despite his self centeredness.

The emotional charge of this production is enormous with its outstanding acting reinforced by first class production techniques. L. B. Morse’s lighting is as central to the action as are the actors. Black outs, fades, projected shadows, spotlights reinforcing significance, color and intensity changes to create mood—all done masterfully.

One always hopes that theatre will be magical. There’s magic here!.

Through Dec. 2, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center at 155 Mercer St., Seattle (www.seattlerep.org or 206 443-2222).

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