Is it possible for a play to be too real?
In the Round House Theatre's production of "The Glass Menagerie," Gayle Behrman does an uncanny Mother, down to the painstakingly accurate Charleston accent, the hand on the breastbone, the stiff little smile.
She is marvelously real, and worth the price of admission to the play, which runs through March 22. The others, while subservient to her role, match her intensity: Richard Averbuch as the son, Tucker Ewing as the daughter, and Thomas Schall as the gentleman caller.
And yet it never quite takes off. You leave the theater asking yourself why, and the first answer is that it wasn't ethereal enough, didn't achieve that hazy nostalgia intended by Tennessee Williams, who made his reputation with this play in 1944.
Mother is a little too shrill, the daughter too robustly self-possessed, the son too worldly wise to maintain the fantasy. Williams called it "a memory play," and Round House director Jeffrey B. Davis wrote of it, "We all experience grief along, but our grieving is not complete until we tell the story of our loss . . ."
To heighten the effect, Christopher Patton composed a special score for the production, and it does help, unobstrusively.
Ultimately, however, the problem lies with Willima himself. As with all of his plays, excepting perhaps "A Streetcar Named Desire," there is no setting. Characters appear out of some miasma of the past and at the end drift back into it. The men have a tendency to simply run away from the conflict and the scene, to move off to the Land of Lost Characters. The women apparently are expected to stay put and fade into the wallpaper.
Competent as the Round House actors ae, particularly Behrman with her full-out, ambitious playing of the part, these people are just too hard to believe today, memory or not, dream or not.In a word, the play is dated. Or more to the point, Williams' neuroses are dated.
This able company deserves to sink its teeth into something more solid.