Showcasing a fragile family

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First Posted: 8/19/2014

When you meet the Wingfield family, whom will you pity the most?

Amanda, the faded Southern belle, remembers a time when life seemed more gracious, the world less rough, and gentleman callers were always paying court.

“When she says she had 17 in one day, I think that’s an embellishment,” said Lynne Zanolini, who plays Amanda in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” which opens Friday, Aug. 22 at the Theatre at the Grove in Nuangola. “How could she possibly have entertained 17 in one day?”

As for Amanda’s daughter, Laura, she’s physically hobbled, emotionally fragile, painfully shy.

“She has a collection of little glass animals,” said cast member Mike Marone. “That’s what she does all day. She plays with little glass animals and listens to old records.”

Then there’s Amanda’s son, Tom, stuck in a dead-end job to support his mother and sister.

“It’s a tough battle for Tom because he does love his family. It’s not that he doesn’t,” said Marone, who has that role. “He feels that his life is going nowhere and part of that going nowhere is because of his family. His mother won’t let him leave until his sister is well taken care of. He’s not allowed to grow up until his sister does, and she’s not going to.”

One fascinating evening at the Wingfield home, Tom brings home a co-worker named Jim, hoping he will be the answer to Amanda’s hopes for Laura, not knowing this gentleman caller is already engaged to someone else. Amanda will become very angry with Tom, thinking he brought Jim home as a joke.

“He really is trying to help Laura,” Marone said. “And he’s trying to help himself. It would be very beneficial to him if Laura found someone.”

Tom eventually will escape his troubled home life, Marone said, and “we’re left not knowing what happens to Laura and Amanda. But that doesn’t mean things will end poorly for them. We just don’t know. In one of the movie versions of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ they took creative liberties and at the end of the movie Tom goes away and Laura is receiving tons and tons of gentlemen callers because meeting Jim opened her eyes to how she can be comfortable with men. But the play does not give any insight into that.”

What the play does give, Marone said, is plenty of Tennessee Williams’ poetic style. “He writes these two-page monologues that just roll off your tongue. They have the lilt and rhythm of poetry.”

“He wrote the play beautifully,” Zanolini agreed. “I’m just amazed at how well the play is constructed, each little scene, each little speech.”

“He’s very particular about the words he chooses,” Marone said, offering “this idea of being caught in the folds of Chamberlain’s umbrella” to illustrate the United States’ approaching involvement in World War II.

As Amanda and Tom Wingfield, Zanolini and Marone are reprising roles they both played in a 2009 production of “The Glass Menagerie” at Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts in Hazleton. That production was directed by Zanolini’s husband, Drew Coffman, who is directing the current show for Theatre at the Grove.

The 2009 production won eight Northeastern Pennsylvania Theatrical Alliance Awards, including Best Actress for Zanolini, Best Set Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Director of a Drama and Best Drama.