By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Director Jamie Baker Knapp forces even more comparisons to small-screen fare by using an almost-continuous musical score under the dialogue and between each scene in The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild. The composers and recording artists go uncredited in the program, but the sound design by Marco E. Salinas seems to draw primarily from the guitar work of W.G. "Snuffy" Walden, known for the music on thirtysomething, West Wing and Providence. You know his stuff. At the end of a scene, when the lead character says something mildly profound, the screen goes black to the sound of Walden's yuppie flamenco. Plink, plunk, strummmmmm.
Few plays are as nakedly autobiographical as this one, and it was worth seeing it again just to be reminded of the suffocating home Tennessee Williams escaped and later wrote about. Menagerie was his life. Like Tom, the play's narrator, Williams (whose real name was Tom) worked in a shoe warehouse as he dreamed of writing (one of his warehouse co-workers was named Stanley Kowalski). Williams had a mentally disabled sister and an overbearing steel magnolia of a mother. Writing this play must have been an exorcism of personal demons, though Williams doesn't make it clear through Tom Wingfield why he needed to revisit such painful memories. Told in flashback by Tom, who has moved far away from Amanda and Laura, the play leaves its women locked away in the past, in dusty, claustrophobic rooms with a scratchy Victrola and peeling wallpaper. We never know what becomes of them.
There are three distinctly different versions of The Glass Menagerie in print, and DTC director Claudia Zelevansky has returned to an early one that includes the back-wall projections of words and phrases that Williams indicated and that many directors ignore. If Zelevansky was going for an authentic revival of how Williams wanted the show to look and play, she's erred by letting her actors interpret their roles too broadly. They don't find the vulnerability in their characters, and we aren't moved by their desperate loneliness. Laura doesn't even seem to care much about her collection of little glass animals. That's a sure sign something is amiss in this Menagerie.
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