Peals of laughter issued from the audience as playful interactions developed on the stage. Hope College Theatre presented a production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” which closed this past Sunday. The four-person cast was small yet mighty as they told the story of a loving yet dysfunctional family.
“The Glass Menagerie” is presented as a “memory play” set in 1937, near the end of the Depression. It is told from the perspective of Tom as he revisits the period of time just prior to when he leaves his mother and sister. Tom’s storytelling is riddled with both nostalgia and regret, which Maxwell Lam (‘20) portrayed well.
For Jean Bahle, an adjunct professor in the theatre department, it was not the first time telling this story. She had played the part of Amanda, Tom’s mother, back in a 1996 Hope Summer Repertory Theatre production. This time around, Bahle brought out equal measures of Southern elegance and playfulness in her performance. She was often the cause of laughter from the audience.
Bahle set the bar high for the younger cast members, and they rose to meet it. Shanley Smith (‘19) played the role of Laura, Tom’s sister, with just the right amounts of timidity and care. Both she and Jacob Starr (‘20), who played the “gentleman caller” named Jim, had the audience entranced during the final scene of the play. The cast truly captured the array of dynamics in a family full of broken people.
The set was a minimalist yet traditional playground for the cast as well. Designed by Richard L. Smith, it had all the elements of a well-loved 1930s home presented in a simple, streamlined way. The warm, dappled lighting and haunting soundtrack, created by Perry Landes, added to the nostalgia of the production.
As for costumes, which were designed by Michelle Bombe, they all had the amount of wear and tear perfect for the play’s circumstances. Amanda’s Southern belle dress was a comically extravagant element within the final scene.
Though “The Glass Menagerie” has been performed many times in a variety of ways, this production managed to keep the story fresh and engaging.