Coach House Theatre stages exquisite 'Glass Menagerie'

by April Helms | special products editor Published:

Nancy Cates, co-artistic director at Coach House Theatre, said that "The Glass Menagerie" was the first full-length play by Tennessee Williams.

"It was a huge hit," she said. "He went from obscurity to superstar overnight. He was writing about his life. His father was absentee, his mother was a faded southern belle, and his sister, whom he was very close to, she was schizophrenic. She underwent a lobotomy to cure her sometime after Tennessee wrote 'The Glass Menagerie,' and it was botched. She turned into a vegetable. He felt terrible for leaving, so he said the other plays were for her, written so he could take care of her."

"The Glass Menagerie" opened at Coach House March 21, and the cast in the show does an incredible job in bringing this human and heartbreaking story to life. Stow residents and husband and wife, Joe Pine and Tess Burgler play Tom and Laura Wingfield, the son and daughter of Amanda Wingfield, played by Hudson resident Dede Klein. Pine's Tom is a restless young man who is torn between his dreams of adventure and his loyalty to his family. Klein's Amanda is exasperating and endearing by turns, with her stories of glories past and her attempts to live vicariously through her children. Burgler's Laura goes beyond the just painfully shy usually seen in productions of this show; here, Laura's inability to communicate with anyone outside her family is on a pathological level.

The Wingfield family's fragile illusion of semi-normalcy changes when Amanda concocts a scheme to try to find a gentleman caller (and, hopefully, a husband) for Laura after a short stint at a business school ends in failure. Amanda's hopes are pinned to Jim, played by Jeremy Jenkins, a co-worker and former high school peer of both Tom and Laura. Jim, an affable and confident young man, is invited by Tom to dinner one evening to meet the family.

Burgler said it was hard at times to remember that the characters in the play are fictional.

"You get so wrapped up in it," she said. "I have to remind myself that Amanda and Laura and Tom are not real."

Pine said that it helped, "with a show this complex, it's easier to do when you can trust the cast." That trust came easy with this cast, he added.

"It's hard not to have fun doing one of the best place America has ever seen written," he said.

Tickets and show information

"The Glass Menagerie" can be seen through April 6. Curtain times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

Dinner or brunch is available to all theatre patrons prior to every performance, at the Akron Woman's City Club next door. Group rates for holiday gatherings or office celebrations are available. Tickets are $20 general admission, and students are $12.

Coach House Theatre is at 732 West Exchange S. in Akron. Call 330-434-7741, or visit www.coachhousetheatre.com for details.

Next on stage

The next show in Coach House's regular season will be "The School for Wives" by Moliere, which will run May 8 through June 1.

In addition, Coach House will stage "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" March 31 through April 2, with shows starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5, and students are free.

The theater also will give a staged reading of "Black Tie" May 27 at 7 p.m. The reading is free but reservations are needed.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

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