A low-key, less-is-more approach to “The Glass Menagerie” helped to make the Lyric at the Plaza production's pared down poetics and performances of its four principals stand out vividly. This version of Tennessee Williams' masterful memory play was set in the Wingfields' St. Louis tenement, with only a wall, partly cutaway, to protect them from the harsh, Depression-era outside world.
Alex John Enterline brought the right restlessness, underlying anger and sense of impending world catastrophe — which he perversely welcomes, to get away from his warehouse job — to the part of Tom Wingfield.
Entering behind the audience, carrying a seaman's bag, so he could “look back” on the action, or look down on it from the top of the fire escape “porch,” Enterline made a nearly perfect author surrogate.
Even more dramatic were Tom's angry, yet somehow still loving exchanges inside the cramped apartment with his mother, desperately trying to cling to him and the bygone, perhaps imagined Southern gentility of her youth.
Helen Hedman filled this role with a fine blend of intensity and restraint, taking the ball and running with it, but also pacing herself well, and demonstrating the survivor's adaptability as well as the rigidity of Amanda Wingfield.
The results were truly memorable, whether Hedman was verbally harassing her children, trying to get women to renew magazines on the phone or reliving her days as the “belle of the ball” by donning a long white dress.
Portraying the third side of this human equation with wonderful understatement was Lindsay Pittman as Laura, the shy, “crippled” daughter, who has retreated into the interior world of her “glass menagerie” of tiny figures.
Working for family peace in early scenes, Pittman seemed to blossom in a touching tete-a-tete with her gentleman caller, candlelit, because Tom used the electric bill money to pay his merchant marine union dues.
Helping her light up this scene despite the lack of electricity with his strapping presence was Dallas Lish as Jim O'Connor, who, almost ironically, turned out to be a true gentleman (even though he's already engaged).
Lish personified the evenhanded appeal of his character, a star athlete at the high school Laura and Tom attended, who hopes to overcome his own setbacks since then with public speaking and radio engineering.
At times coming across as almost too minimal, and a bit dated, the production drew a warm response, perhaps benefiting from nostalgia for such curiosities as an old-fashioned phonograph and black telephone receiver.
Directed by Michael Baron, with a set by Dawn Drake, sound by Michael Mosteller, lighting by John Fowler and costumes by Jeffrey Meek, it is recommended during its run.
— John Brandenburg