‘The Glass Menagerie’ shines at Rhynsburger Theatre

The play focuses on the drama of the Wingfield family.
Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" premiered Thursday night at the Rhynsburger Theatre. The show is scheduled to run until Nov. 15. Courtesy of Rebecca Allen/MU Theatre

Tennessee Williams’ play, “The Glass Menagerie,” hit the stage at Rhynsburger Theatre and left the audience in a state of shock as the lights went out at the end.

The play centers on the Wingfield family in the 1930s: Tom, the brother who dreams of adventure; Amanda, the overbearing mother who is desperate to marry her daughter off; and Laura, the painfully shy girl who finds happiness in her collection of glass animals. Tom, the narrator, tells the story of his family’s desire for Laura’s quick, forced courtship that causes turbulent family conflict along the way.

Director Suzanne Burgoyne said she is proud of all the work the cast and crew have done in order to make this production a success.

Burgoyne and colleague Cheryl Black, who plays Amanda, said they decided together they wanted to put on Tennessee Williams’ well-known play.

“Cheryl (Black) suggested 'The Glass Menagerie,'" Burgoyne said. "I've always loved the play, but the role of Amanda is so demanding that I didn't want to commit to directing the show unless I knew I would have at least one actress available who could play Amanda. Cheryl is an outstanding actress, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to direct her as Amanda.”

Though the cast consisted of only four people, these gifted actors created a range of emotions onstage from happiness and hope to despair and loss.

“Everyone approached the process with professionalism and dedication,” Burgoyne said. “For me, this was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I've had in my directing career.”

Sophomore Dylan Bainter played Jim O’Connor, the high school golden boy and Laura’s crush.

“I think my favorite part of working on this production was getting to work with the great cast and production team,” Bainter said. “I learned a lot with all of them, and I had an absolutely wonderful time performing with them all.”

The last half of the play centers on the interactions between Jim and Laura, which lead to the shocking finale.

Sophomore Blair Ussary, who saw the show on opening night, said she was shocked during the final scenes.

“The show was really depressing, (but) it was very good,” Ussary said. “I enjoyed watching it.”

Burgoyne said she knew the emotional impact the show would have on the audience.

“You can’t sum up the moral to the story, but the audience will be emotionally affected in one way or another, absolutely,” Burgoyne said.

Burgoyne said the play might affect audience members differently.

“If you have ever felt like an alien in a hostile world, one of the despised 'different' ones, you will recognize the Wingfields as family,” Burgoyne said. “If not, perhaps you, like Jim, will spend this evening staring at the strange animals in the zoo and walk away whistling.”

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