By CASEY STEPHEN
Convincing acting, excellent directing, subtle lighting and appropriate costumes were overwhelmed by an elaborate set to keep BYU’s production of “The Glass Menagerie” from being the intimate theater experience it might have been.
Particularly of note were acting performances by faculty member Barta Heiner as Amanda Wingfield and Kymberly Luke Mellen as Laura. These actresses lent a deep sense of feeling to their characters that allowed the audience to sympathize with the two female characters.
As Amanda, the mother of the Wingfield family, dealt with her children and reacted to their increasingly difficult situation, it was easy to sense the desperation she feels about the future of her family. Amanda’s character exists on stage as a woman who has a past that affects her present and her visions of the future; Heiner made that past, present and future almost tangible to the audience.
Mellen also seemed to have an excellent grasp of her character’s past. When Laura, the shy crippled daughter, told the gentleman caller (played by Matt Rockwood) about the way she felt walking into a filled auditorium late, believing that everyone in the room was listening to the sound of the brace on her leg clunking with every step, the picture was as clear and real as if we had been there ourselves.
Costuming was appropriate to the characters and time. In preparation for the arrival of Jim the gentleman caller, Amanda emerged in a dreadful faded yellow dress trimmed with ruffles and lace — obviously a relic from her youthful days of courting. The dress encapsulated the Amanda character who dwells on the days of her faded youth.
The play’s lighting gave the sense of memory that Tom, played by Christopher Clark, explained in his opening monologue. Since the play is a memory played out in Tom’s mind, we saw a dimly lit stage with subtle music playing at crucial points in the memory. Careful lighting allowed the action on stage to be clearly visible while maintaining a dim, dream-like feel.
Tennessee Williams’ people-oriented script lends itself to a production focused closely around its four characters; in BYU’s production, a large set takes the focus away from the characters, making them difficult to see and hear at times.
A dining room is set deep at the back of the stage with a large living area in the foreground with an outdoor fire escape wrapping around. The space between the dining room and even the closest audience members created a distance — mental as well as physical — between the actors and audience.
This barrier, however, didn’t keep director David Morgan’s production from being a thought-provoking and engrossing theater experience.