Orange Park Community Theatre Review
A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
Loyal patrons of Orange Park Community Theatre were surprised this season by a first for the theatre, which has a forty-eight year history: the staging of a play by the great Southern writer Tennessee Williams. “The Glass Menagerie” opened March 25, 2017 and will run through April 9 at 2900 Moody Avenue. Call 904-276-2599 or visit opct.info for reservations.
“Menagerie” is a memory play narrated by a man looking back on his young adulthood in St. Louis in the late 1930s. Times were tough as jobs were scarce. Unmarried women without relatives to assist them faced a particularly uncertain and unpleasant future, as the safety net of modern times did not exist, and they were unlikely to be able to support themselves financially.
Tom Wingfield, who is in early twenties, feels trapped. His father abandoned the family sixteen years ago and never returned. He lives in a small apartment with his mother Amanda and his sister Laura, who is a couple of years older. Their income is limited. Tom works at a shoe factory and largely supports the family with his wages of $65.00 a month. While his mother struggles to contribute by selling magazine subscriptions, Laura is too uncomfortable around strangers to work.
Amanda tries to be a nurturing mother, but she repeatedly alienates Tom with frequent nagging and belittling outbursts. He escapes by spending his evenings elsewhere; when asked, he says he went out to the movies. Amanda feels that if she can find a suitor for her terribly shy daughter, things will go right for all of them in the future, and she insists that Tom find a potential mate to invite to dinner.
Tom is played by Rich Pintello who most recently appeared in “Peter and the Starcatcher” at Theatre Jacksonville. Pintello is sensational as Tom, capturing all the anger and frustration of a creative young man who needs a larger canvas for his future life.
Amanda has been a coveted role since the play first hit the boards over seventy years ago. Helen Hayes, Jessica Tandy, Julie Harris and Katherine Hepburn are a few of the actresses who have portrayed this complex character, while Sally Field heads up a current New York revival. OPCT’s Amanda is Tricia Williams. She brings out the dream world that Amanda inhabits as a former Southern Belle with her choice of gentleman callers, who is also currently a mother who both acknowledges and rejects the harsh realities of her daily life.
The role of Laura is played by Samantha Eigenmann, a senior at the University of North Florida. She has appeared as a dancer in “Oklahoma” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which she also co-choreographed.
The character Laura is more often than not portrayed as physically frail, almost whisper-thin at times. While Eigenmann is certainly not frail she does a wonderful job of conveying psychological frailty through facial expression and voice modulation. In the times we have seen this play over the years, Laura has always been portrayed with an obligatory limp (she wore a brace in the past due to an episode of polio). While the Laura in OPCT’s version has no detectable signs of physical problems, she does refer to herself on more than one occasion as “crippled,” and the extent of her perceived disability is one of her reasons for avoiding work and social situations.Bobby Bickle makes a remarkable acting debut as Jim, the gentleman caller. He plays a former high school athletic star who accepted a low-level job at the shoe factory and now has promising and exciting prospects for advancement. His scene by candlelight with Laura and her collection of small glass animals is one of the most intensive and timeless in theatre.
Aimee Low makes her directing debut with this fine production. Aimee caught the theatre bug when she appeared in “The Addams Family” as Alice. She will be back in October when she directs “The Haunting of Hill House” at OPCT.
The costumes by Melissa Hawkins McClellan and Michael Marbut were fine for Amanda, Tom and Jim, although Laura appeared unexpectedly overdressed at times, once in a gorgeous metallic blue gown, another in a luxurious overcoat.
The set designed by the Director Low and Brandon Leporati captured the feeling of the era.
Crew Members included: Aimee Low (Director), Breanna Shuman (Assistant Director), George Hawkins Jr. (Producer), Brandy Ramos (Stage Manager), Cathy Tenga (Light Board Operator), Todd Low (Sound Tech), Joseph Howard (Sound Board Operator).
We saw this show with a Sunday afternoon full-house audience who thoroughly enjoyed it. “The Glass Menagerie” is a classic that never fails to move us as the tragedies and comedies of frustrated lives unfold on stage. It carries an emotional wallop for anyone and everyone who has ever known loss or loneliness. This is a fine production, don’t miss it.