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Artattack looks through a glass lightly

Tennessee Williams describes his 1944 play, "The Glass — Menagerie," as "a memory play," and as such it is dimly lighted, sentimental — and not realistic. Moreover, "in memory everything seems to happen to — music." Some critics consider it Wiliams' finest play, even if it is one — of his earlier works.

Ashland's Artattack Theatre Ensemble, under the direction — of Justin C. Lockwood, promises us a reimagined and innovative version — of this American classic that opens Nov. 5 at its theater on Oak Street. — One bold move is that the role of Tom is here played by two actors: the — older Tom is the nostalgic narrator or commentator, the younger the actual — participant in the action. This enables us to see the man he was and the — man he has become.

Another conception is that the set and costumes are entirely — white, creating the effect of a blank canvas on which the audience can — project the images as described by Williams in his beautiful stage directions — that are added to the older Tom's lines.

There are autobiographical connections. Tennessee Williams — is embodied in Tom, his mother Edwina in Amanda, and his sister Rose, — sickly and having a glass collection, in Laura. These are the play's Wingfields, — and the Gentleman Caller who comes to visit Laura is Jim O'Connor. Act — I is concerned with preparations for the Caller, Act II with the call — itself. The scene set in our imagination is an alley in St. Louis, with — the shoddy Wingfield apartment in the rear of a building. The time is — now and in the past.

Amanda, herself trapped in time, is living the myth of — a southern belle in Blue Mountain. She prevails on her son Tom to bring — a gentleman home to his crippled sister Laura, in hopes of getting her — married. The son desperately wants to escape from the stifling atmosphere — at home and to quit his stultifying warehouse job and to follow the call — of the sea and join the merchant marines. As for his sister, painfully — shy, she finds solace in her collection of glass animals. So Tom does — bring a gentleman home for dinner, and Laura opens up like a flower in — his presence, only to be crushed. It is powerful and poignant theatre.

"The Glass Menagerie" opened at the Player's Theatre in — New York in 1945 and ran for 561 performances. It is claimed that William — Inge came to see the play and was so moved by the experience that he decided — to become a playwright, too.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) entered the University — of Missouri in 1929, living for a time in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity — house, but left after two years, unable to pay his way. After graduating — from the University of Iowa, where he studied dramatic writing, he worked — as a bell hop in New Orleans, a handyman in a shoe factory (Tom's job — in the play), a teletypist with a corps of engineers in Florida, and a — waiter and reciter of verse in a Greenwich Village night club. Throughout, — he wrote assiduously, mostly for the stage.

Justin C.Lockwood's cast features Artattack ensemble members — - Linda Otto (Amanda) and Dale Nakagawa (the Gentleman Caller), and newcomers — to Artattack, Doug Mitchell (the older Tom), Adam Cuppy (the younger Tom), — and Nicole Strykowski (Laura).

Performances of "The Glass Menagerie" are on Fridays, — Saturdays, Mondays at 8.00 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2.00 p.m. through — December 6 except on November 22, 26, 27, 28, 29. And as an antidote to — the Menagerie melacholia, Artattack is offering a staged reading on Sundays — at 8.00 p.m. of Christopher Durang's parody entitled "For Whom the Southern — Bell Tolls." For information: 482-6505.