For the first production in its Meridian home, the New Heritage Theatre is offering the classic Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie. The strong performances of the four actors in the cast capture the haunting nostalgic quality of the script, making the magic of Williams bloom again.
Director Sandra Cavanaugh, who founded the theater company, has impressive credits as a teacher, actress and even as a playwright. During her introduction at the first preview of The Glass Menagerie, she enthusiastically spoke about her group's move from Boise and thanked the Meridian School District for its partnership in this project. While the performance was a preview, Cavanaugh's sure hand at pacing and establishing mood was evident.
There are some problems with the lighting flexibility and the acoustics in the new Mountain View High School Auditorium, which made the actors work very hard to create the family dynamics so important in this play.
The son, Tom, is the narrator and he has some of Williams' most vivid poetic lines. Drew Ebersole creates an earnest, creative, stressed-out man, trapped in a warehouse job he hates in order to support the needs of his clinging mother and lame sister. He has inherited his father's wanderlust, and like the missing father, a telephone man who "fell in love with long distance"--Tom is plotting an escape, in spite of the hardship it will cause his family. But this is a memory play--Tom's memory--and the lights are softer, and the actions are filtered by time. Ebersole is a bit uncertain with his character at the beginning, but by the end, he has found the rhythm and depth of Tom's soul and his final speech rips out your heart, as it shows the power and beauty of the playwright's words, "blow out your candles, Laura ... for nowadays the world is lit by lightning."
Patricia O'Hara is delightful as the aging southern belle, Amanda Wingfield. Her southern accent is as sweet as dripping syrup, and her graceful hands paint pictures in the air as well as reflect her longing and despair. She is the mother you love and hate--and pity. Her dreams of wealth and gracious living are soured by the reality and harshness of her existence, but O'Hara digs into her character and shows the grit behind the fluttery exterior. Even her youthful appearance is appropriate, because that is how Amanda will always see herself.
Although Menagerie is often thought of as the mother's show, it is Laura, the shy reclusive daughter who wins our deepest affection. Jamie Farmer-Ebersole is a pale, frail version of Tom's painfully shy sister, but she radiates sweetness and vulnerability. She suffers silently during the fights between her brother and mother, panics when she learns who is coming to dinner and emits a visible glow at the kindness of her "gentleman caller." She is really the only character who is altered during the play, even if for a very short time, as she is drawn out of her frightened shell to actually enjoy the attentions of her high school crush, Jim O'Conner.
Jeremy Chase is the perfect O'Conner. He struts and puffs, shows off his ambitions to be more than a warehouse clerk, and proves he has the determination to make something of himself. But Chase creates more than a dynamic boaster. He manages to show the soft and gentle side of O'Conner, which can charm the mother and even draw out the pathologically shy Laura. As the symbol of the real world, that the Wingfield family can only dream about, Chase delivers a touching and remarkable performance.
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and directed by Sandra Cavanaugh. The New Heritage Theatre Co. at Mountain View High School, 2000 S. Millennium, Meridian. Continuing shows April 5, 7, 8 at 7 p.m.; April 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets at www.ticketweb.com, 381-0958 or at the door. $25 general; $15 students and seniors.