Reinventing the Glass Menagerie at Marin Theatre Company

Craig Marker as Jim and Anna Bullard as Laura in the Glass Menagerie at MTC

To celebrate Tennessee Williams' centennial, Director Jason Minedakis has re-imagined the Glass Menagerie. He feels that it is Tom's play. In Minedakis' staging, Tom is always present. When he is not in a scene, he's watching it unfold from a fire escape above, together with expressive Trumpeter Andrew Wilke, as the portrait of the long-departed father and interpreter of Chris Houston's melancholy score.  Tom, of course, is Tennessee Williams himself in this semi-autobiographical play.  Nicholas Pelczar who plays Tom, is almost a dead ringer for Williams. He is the narrator, and it is his memory that drives the play.

Aspiring poet Tom Wingfield reluctantly works in a warehouse to support his overbearing mother Amanda (Sherman Fracher) and debilitatingly shy sister Laura (Anna Bullard).  Pushed by his mother, Tom finds his sister a gentleman caller (Craig Marker as Jim) to try to coax her from her fragile private world.  In this stifling atmosphere of family melodrama, Craig Marker is a breath of fresh air as the gentleman caller.  Minedakis has a fine cast.  In addition to the wonderful Craig Marker as Jim, the gentleman caller, Nicholas Pelczar gives a well-rounded performance as Tom. Sherman Frocker's Amanda plays well in both her martyr-like guilt traps and her southern charm, and Anna Bullard's Laura is both fragile and painfully shy.

According to Director Jason Minedakis, on his concept for the play, he says, "It is a very strong exploration of a family fighting to maintain itself."  This gives the play a harshness not seen before in other productions.  A thick web of skeletal fire escapes enclosed the combative Wingfield family on Kat Conley's set design.  There are no solid walls and everything can be seen through, like glass.  The set features only the pieces of furniture which are essential to the action--a bare wood-slat table, four chairs, a couch and a phonograph moodily lit by Ben Wilhelm's lighting design.  The only props, the only things the audience sees in the play are the pieces that stand out in Tom's memory and most of the props are mimed, except for a solitary glass unicorn.  

There was too much arguing and shouting in Act One.  This was redeemed in Act Two when covers soften the iron settee and colorful lanterns warmly light the scene between Tom's sister Laura and the gentleman caller in a long conversation which was beautifully acted and sensitively portrayed by Anna Bullard and Craig Marker.  

The Glass Menagerie plays through December 18 with performances at Marin Theatre Company, 597 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Matinees are every Sunday at 2 p.m. plus a matinee Saturday, December 17 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 415-388-5208 or go to

Flora Lynn Isaacson