by Charlie Jarrett
The Martinez Campbell Theater (636 Ward St, Martinez, CA) is truly becoming an even more “Go-to Theatrical Venue” for the entire East Bay Area, as the quality and variety of shows continue to get better and more engaging. This past week, one of my favorite all-time dramatic masterpieces, The Glass Menagerie, written by Tennessee Williams, has come to full readiness on this warm and welcoming stage.
Williams, whose full name was Thomas Lanier Williams (before he adopted his nickname, Tennessee, while in college), wrote his first financially successful play, the Glass menagerie, in 1945. It immediately became critically acclaimed, drawing huge audiences and winning significant awards. Williams, over the course of his lifetime, wrote 25 full-length plays, dozens of screenplays, two novels, a novella, 60 short stories, more than 100 poems, and an autobiography. He was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. He is widely considered the equal of Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller as a renowned theater author. Unfortunately, Williams, in later years, became deeply beleaguered by drugs and alcohol, and ultimately died by chocking to death on a bottle cap in 1983 (apparently contributed to by his heavy use of alcohol and barbiturates). His father, C. C. Williams, was a domineering, abusive drunkard and womanizer, who made life for his wife (a withdrawn and genteel pastor’s daughter), painfully miserable. He continuously embarrassed his only son Thomas, by referring to him as “Miss Nancy”, because of Tennessee’s weak and sensitive nature.
This play is a memory play with strong autobiographical elements, and the play that catapulted Williams from obscurity to fame. It consists of four characters: a histrionic, domineering mother, Amanda (Shay Oglesby-Smith), still indelibly immersed in her Southern proclivities and her fragile-as-glass daughter, Laura (Anna-Oglesby-Smith), imprisoned as a painfully shy young woman suffering a schizophrenic existence, nurtured in large part by an embarrassing physical disability. The principal male figure and the story’s narrator, is Amanda’s son, Tom (Carter Chastain), supporting the family by working in a shoe factory as a very low pay warehousemen, a job that he truly detests. The fourth and final addition to the story, is a former high school friend and compassionate coworker, Jim O’Connor (Ariel Sandino).
Tom struggles daily with his mother’s incessant nit-picking over habits she feels are detrimental to him. His sister, Laura, struggles with her life-long insecurities and deeply held secrets that ultimately draw her mother to the conclusion, that the only avenue to secure her daughter’s future security is to find an “appropriate” potential husband for her. All of this leads to Amanda insisting that her son invite a co-worker (but more specifically, a “suitable” non-alcoholic coworker and potential husband), to their home for dinner, to meet Laura.
This play is directed artfully by seasoned actor, director, and Shelley award-winning producer Randy Anger. The mother and daughter acting team, Shay and Anna, have long wanted to play these iconic roles of Amanda and Laura and have done so in this production with poignant perfection. Their male counterparts Carter Chastain and Ariel Sandino are seasoned actors as well, delivering for your benefit, sterling performances. In addition, the creative team includes the multiple award-winning set-designer, Diane McRice, in addition to lighting designers Todd Drummond and Dave Pursley. The appropriate costumes for this production are designed and prepared by costumer, Lisa Danz. This play is an Onstage Theater sponsored production, co-produced with Randy Anger’s Theatrical Company, the Plotline Theatre Company.
The Glass Menagerie continues Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, with a Sunday matinee at 2:30 in the afternoon, now through February 2. Ticket prices are a very reasonable $22 for adults and $19 for seniors and students. Tickets may be secured by contacting www.brownpapertickets.com , or by calling 925-350-9770.
Photography by: Becky Doyle-Davis