August 28, 2008


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews







   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts






   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Tennessee Williams at Weirs
Winnipesaukee Playhouse closes the summer with a classic drama
By Heidi Masek

Tennessee Williams says that The Glass Menagerie is a memory play. It’s written in his production notes, and he has his character Tom tell the audience that at the outset: “I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

Indeed, Williams squeezes in droplets of truths in well-turned phrases. In this production from the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, those simple lines are subtle surprises.

In Williams’ semi-autobiographical play in 1930s St. Louis, Tom as a young man, his mother and his sister are all dependent on each other in different ways. His mother, Amanda, was brought up to depend on a husband, or at least his financial legacy. Her husband has left her, however. Tom’s sister, Laura, can’t cope with anyone outside her family, which stands in the way of making a career. Supporting Amanda and Laura is left to Tom, who hates his warehouse drudgery and dreams of adventure.

To move, he has to leave his small world where he’s doted on and depended on and abandon Laura. Amanda’s constant attention irritates him, yet he can’t be mean to his mother for too long.

Alison Weisgall plays Laura with quiet strength rather than cloying fragility. The audience is reminded later that Laura is not a normal young woman — that her “defects” go beyond a limp. Weisgall expects to complete an MFA in acting at Columbia University in 2009.

I appreciated the characters’ contrast between the first and second act under Neil Pankhurst’s direction. In the first act, there’s a glimpse at how the occupants of the apartment are abnormal, but they are accepted as somewhat regular and comfortable to each other. They bring the dialogue to life in a realistic way. Even Amanda’s ceaseless chatter doesn’t seem too out of place by the end of the first act. Once Tom’s friend Jim comes to dinner in the second act, each character is on his worst behavior, and the truth of who they are becomes painfully obvious when confronted with a stranger.

Carolyn Kirsch, who played Amanda, has a background in musicals. Perhaps that experience is put to use as the former southern belle with a melodic, not quite sing-song Southern accent. She calls forth graceful poise when Amanda is recalling her girlhood. This is Kirsch’s first performance with Winnipesaukee Playhouse. Over her career she appeared in 15 Broadway shows, working frequently with Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse. She now teaches at Hartford Conservatory.

Adam Kee showed Tom’s caring side as well as his contrary and sullen ones. Just a few of his shouts at Amanda seemed a little more piercing than necessary, though, overshadowing other lines. Kee, of New York, has appeared in six other Winnipesaukee Playhouse professional summer titles. He has an MFA from The New School.

David Utz Towlun’s set involves a platform stage that denotes a living room. (Towlun is currently working on props for A Tale of Two Cities on Broadway.) The dining table is visible through an opening at the back of the stage the size of a sliding glass door. A screen-like curtain is pulled across it to separate the dining room during some scenes. A suitably worn-looking door and a window mark the sides of the living room, and the prescribed fire escape entrance is to the right.

The use of what appeared to be an actual fire escape was key. Just implying that there’s a fire escape would have caused the performance to lose something.

Fire escapes tend to feel precarious as a means of escape — which is ultimately what Tom wants to do. With this setup, along with lighting that mimicked moonlight (Matthew Guminski is the lighting designer), there was a clear delineation between the outside and inside. Tom talks about his escape plans on the fire escape, while indoors his sister escapes into a world of glass figurines and her father’s Victrola records. Amanda escapes her present by talking about her more privileged past and fussing over her adult children. Outdoors, Tom talks about his life outside the apartment. He’s a “selfish dreamer” who sedates himself with movies and drink.

Kirsch and Weisgall captivated as they took the audience through memories of their characters. I could see Amanda’s Southern porch, and Laura’s high school hallways. Tom’s descriptions normally had to do with his future or tales he made up or borrowed from movies.

Silhouettes of fire escapes hung above the stage, which initially served to show that the apartment was one in a large neighborhood. They also perhaps symbolized that Tom’s family could be surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other frustrated lives. The characters can’t help each other, which could have been a predicament played out in many other homes.

As upsetting as their situation is, there’s humor in exchanges between Tom and his mother. Kirsch also made the most of Amanda’s telephone calls selling magazine subscriptions, going on about how a fellow D.A.R. member with an ailment was just a “Christian martyr.” Later in the play, it’s disturbing to watch Amanda blindly pin her hope for security on one evening.

Overall, the last show in Winnipesaukee’s 2008 season offers a performance and ambience that are well worth the ticket price. And yes, it is a bit surprising to find this level of theater professionalism in Weirs Beach (sorry, Weirs). — Heidi Masek

If you go
What: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Where: The Winnipesaukee Playhouse, at Alpenrose Plaza, routes 11B and 3 in Weirs Beach, Laconia
When: At 8 p.m., nightly through Saturday, Aug. 30.
Tickets $17-$19
Contact: See or call 366-7377.

8/21/2008 Change for the moment

8/14/2008 Curtain calls
8/7/2008 Wicked experience
7/31/2008 Merry tales
7/24/2008 Review: the great outdoors
7/17/2008 Curtain calls
7/10/2008 Musical monsters
7/3/2008 Curtain calls
6/26/2008 Curtain calls
6/19/2008 Summer stock
6/12/2008 Curtain calls
6/5/2008 This one time, at drama camp...
5/29/2008 Curtain calls
5/22/2008 Making it big
5/15/2008 Curtain calls
5/8/2008 Curtain calls
5/1/2008 Forging ahead
4/24/2008 The Bard, condensed
4/17/2008 'Balance' in Bedford
4/10/2008 Curtain calls
4/3/2008 Singing for a cause
3/27/2008 These aren't recitals folks
3/20/2008 Albee at MRT
3/13/2008 Murder and rhinos
3/6/2008 Murder and rhinos
2/28/2008 The art of theater criticism
2/21/2008 Breaking the cycle
2/14/2008 Curtain Calls
2/7/2008 NH Theatre awards sixth year
1/31/2008 Elvis fans and ghost stories
1/24/2008 Building an audience
1/17/2008 Curtain Calls
1/10/2008 Fate of Annicchiarico
1/3/2008 A little confidence
12/27/2007 Stage notables in 2007
12/20/2007 If all they want for Christmas is two good seats ...
12/13/2007 Summer stock vs. southern NH
12/06/2007 Curtain Calls
11/29/2007 Curtain Calls
11/22/2007 Broadway composer and actress hit Granite State
11/15/2007 One-man play turns audience into students
11/8/2007 Curtain calls
11/1/2007 First times
10/25/2007 Curtain Calls
10/18/2007 Curtain Calls
10/11/2007 American History
10/04/2007 Active in the community
9/27/2007 Stringing single
9/20/2007 Curtain Calls
9/13/2007 Free range
9/6/2007 Curtain Calls
8/30/2007 Curtain Calls
8/23/2007 Curtain Calls
8/16/2007 Curtain Calls
8/9/2007 Curtain Calls
8/2/2007 That deaf, dumb and blind kid
7/26/2007 Potty humor
7/19/2007 Ease on down the road
7/12/2007 Jekyll vs. Hyde
7/5/2007 If it's free, it's for me
6/28/2007 Transformations
6/21/2007 Curtain calls
6/14/2007 No really, you'll get it
6/7/2007 Curtain calls
5/31/2007 Curtain calls
5/24/2007 Putting the camp in camp
5/17/2007 Curtain Calls
5/10/2007 Curtain Calls
5/3/2007 Curtain Calls
4/26/2007 Still going strong
4/19/2007 Vietnam the the Palace
4/12/2007 Confluence
4/5/2007 First look
3/29/2007 Reluctant star
3/15/2007 In a town far away
3/8/2007 Curtain calls
3/1/2007 Into the future
2/22/2007 But will it play in New Hampshire
2/15/2007 Curtain calls
2/8/2007 Family affair
2/1/2007 Curtain calls
1/25/2007 Curtain calls
1/18/2007 Curtain calls
1/11/2007 Curtain calls
1/4/2007 Fork in the road
12/28/2006 Standout performances of '06
12/21/2006 Curtain Calls
12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother