'The Glass Menagerie' opens Friday at the Hipp


Marybeth Gorman stars as Laura Wingfield, from left, Niall McGinty stars as Tom Wingfield and Sara Morsey stars as Amanda Wingfield in the Hippodrome State Theatre production of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams Tuesday, December 30, 2008.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 11:56 a.m.

In life and in literature, classic struggles exist. Good versus evil. Rich versus poor.

But in "The Glass Menagerie," the autobiographical play by Tennessee Williams, the ultimate face-off arises: parent versus child. In this case, it's single mom Amanda Wingfield and her two adult children Laura and Tom. Underneath Amanda's Southern charm and decorum lies an overbearing mother who excessively nags, criticizes and dotes on her children to the brink of pushing them away. Laura is so painfully shy she retreats into a world inside herself and Tom, the volatile younger son, is desperately trying to create a new world far away from the one he's in.

Amanda wants what's best for her children. Tom and Laura want what's best for them.

Their conflict, rooted in good intentions, will play out on stage beginning Friday through Feb. 1 at the Hippodrome State Theatre, which produced the play before in 1998. Director Laura Caldwell and longtime company member Sara Morsey, who plays Amanda, have revived their roles for the production.

Set in 1937 St. Louis, the "memory play" is as intimate as it is intense. Filled with tender moments and explosive scenes, the play warmly invites the audience into the Wingfield's modest apartment and locks your attention until the last riveting scene.

Tom, portrayed by the passionate and charismatic Niall McGinty, is the play's narrator, giving insight into his inner struggles and those of his family. Unhappy at work and miserable at home, Tom escapes through his poetry and frequent movie trips. His father abandoned the family long ago to experience adventure, which, in turn has hindered Tom from living his own.

"He's challenged with wanting to make things right in his life and in the people's lives he loves, but sometimes the way things are, you just can't do that," said the Chicago actor. "He has to make a choice between making himself happy or being unhappy and making other people happy."

Marybeth Gorman's delivers a brilliantly sweet and heartbreaking performance as the insecure and introverted Laura, who walks with a limp and suffers from what modern times would diagnose as social anxiety. Although Amanda is obsessed with finding her daughter "gentlemen callers," Laura is only interested in her treasured collection of glass animals. This is Gorman's first time performing at the Hipp and in this play.

"It is kind of a little window into this very specific moment in these people's life," she said about the story. "It's small, but extraordinary and very special."

"The Glass Menagerie," producing director Mary Hausch said, is a wonderful classic and beautiful piece of theater, but it wasn't originally on the Hipp's schedule for the season. It replaced the musical "Tick, Tick...BOOM!" which, in a year of budget cuts and an economic crisis, was more expensive to produce than the four-cast "Menagerie." Williams, who once served as artist-in-residence at the Hippodrome, premiered his play "Tiger Tail" on its stage in 1979. Last year, Williams' "Suddenly Last Summer" also was performed at the Hipp.

Morsey, who has played Amanda in several different productions, is a big fan of Williams' work, but said none are as "perfectly lovely" as "The Glass Menagerie." She said all four characters are so completely correct that everyone can relate to and empathize with each one.

"When you're in they're shoes, they're all so right and that's what I think is so beautiful about the play because there are not that many plays that have this many different characters who are completely well drawn," Morsey said. "Each one is complete."

Even Jim O'Connor, a.k.a. Gentleman Caller.

Michael Littig plays this overconfident, Eddie Haskell-like character with remarkable cool. His appearance in the play is brief, but unforgettable. The New York City actor said the small cast is refreshing.

"I love it because there's something when you have a small cast that the relationships on stage are that much more comfortable with who you are and what the character is," he said. "When you're in a big cast, you have a certain role, but here you feel like it's a collaborative process."

Contact Lashonda Stinson Curry at 374-5038 or lashonda.stinson@gvillesun.com

'The Glass Menagerie'

When: Friday through Feb. 1; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; preview performance 8 tonight.

Where: Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place

Tickets: $25-$30, $20 seniors, $12 students; $15 for adults and $12 for students for tonight's previews.

Information: 375-4477 or www.thehipp.org

'The Glass Menagerie'

When: Friday through Feb. 1; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; preview performance 8 tonight.

Where: Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place

Tickets: $25-$30, $20 seniors, $12 students; $15 for adults and $12 for students for tonight's previews.

Information: 375-4477 or www.thehipp.org

sc8coverstory2.jpg

RIGHT: From left, Marybeth Gorman stars as Laura Wingfield, Niall McGinty as Tom Wingfield and Sara Morsey as Amanda Wingfield in the Hipp's production of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams. LEFT: The unicorn is the favorite piece in Laura's menagerie of glass animals that gives Tennessee Williams' play its name.

RIGHT: From left, Marybeth Gorman stars as Laura Wingfield, Niall McGinty as Tom Wingfield and Sara Morsey as Amanda Wingfield in the Hipp's production of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams. LEFT: The unicorn is the favorite piece in Laura's menagerie of glass animals that gives Tennessee Williams' play its name.

sc8coverstoryNEW.jpgDoug Finger

RIGHT: From left, Marybeth Gorman stars as Laura Wingfield, Niall McGinty as Tom Wingfield and Sara Morsey as Amanda Wingfield in the Hipp's production of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams. LEFT: The unicorn is the favorite piece in Laura's menagerie of glass animals that gives Tennessee Williams' play its name.

RIGHT: From left, Marybeth Gorman stars as Laura Wingfield, Niall McGinty as Tom Wingfield and Sara Morsey as Amanda Wingfield in the Hipp's production of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams. LEFT: The unicorn is the favorite piece in Laura's menagerie of glass animals that gives Tennessee Williams' play its name.

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