The convention of a memory play — one in which the lead character, who is also the narrator, presents the audience with his or her memories — has been used by a number of playwrights in recent decades (and, some would argue, much earlier in history). The cleverness of a memory play is that it focuses on perspective and identity rather than plain fact. The most famous example of a memory play — and the one in which the term was first coined — is Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which was first produced in 1944. As with many of Williams’ plays, there are strong autobiographical elements to it, and a character who essentially represents Williams himself. In this case, that character is Tom Wingfield, a restless young man who supports his family (whom he feels burdened by yet duty-bound to) by working a monotonous job that he hates, while yearning for a better life that he glimpses in the poetry he writes and the movies he frequently watches. Tom is also the play’s narrator, warning us that because we are watching a play of his memories, “it is sentimental, it is not realistic”.
The aforementioned family that he lives with in their small St. Louis, Missouri, apartment includes his mother, Amanda, abandoned by Mr. Wingfield and left to raise her children in tough financial times, while struggling to maintain some semblance of a life for herself, often harkening back to her younger years when she was very popular among her peers. Rounding out the Wingfield family is Tom’s sister, Laura, a simple and quiet young woman who has a big heart, but is isolated from the world at large by a deep-seated fear of being inferior thanks to a childhood disease which has left her with a limp.
Melanie Baker and Carey Nicholson’s set works in presenting the essence of a run-down apartment, with its faded wallpaper and its worn sofa covered with blankets to hide years of wear and tear. The show’s fifth character — the photo of Mr. Wingfield — is appropriate in size and detail, although it is unfortunate that there is no mantle below it, contradicting the play’s dialogue about the photo resting above the mantle. The all-important centre of Laura’s world — her glass menagerie — would have had more impact if it was placed closer to the audience or larger in scale; as it was, the menagerie was very difficult to discern.
The use of movement and action by directors Annette Stokes and Michael Serres always felt natural, human, and appropriate. The use of imaginary drinks was an odd choice, particularly in combination with the choice to use real food (which worked well in its own right, particularly in a moment where Amanda chides Tom for wolfing down his food). Costumes were appropriate for the era, particularly Amanda’s formal dress, which felt as out of place and lost in a bygone time as Amanda herself. Michael Serres’ use of music was perfect in setting the mood of each scene.
Liam Lynch shines brightly as Tom. He is instantly charming and charismatic when speaking to the audience. He possesses Tom alternately with a warmth and tenderness seen through Tom’s interactions with Laura, and a fiery countenance that Mr. Lynch expertly keeps brimming at the surface, particularly in the scenes of conflict between Tom and Amanda, only allowing it to boil over in rare moments.