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HPU's 'Glass Menagerie' shines


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POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In the 65 years since “;The Glass Menagerie”; debuted in Chicago, Tennessee Williams' semiautobiographical drama has become a classic in 20th-century American theater.

The story is very much a product of a particular point in time in American culture — it has been several generations since American women have waited at home for “;gentlemen”; to call — but Williams' richly written characters transcend that. Their hopes, and their fears and frustrations, are timeless.

               

     

 

“;The Glass Menagerie”;

       

        Presented by Hawaii Pacific University
       

» Place: Paul and Vi Loo Theater, Hawaii Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway

       

» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through May 3

       

» Cost: $20 general; $14 for seniors, students, military, HPU faculty and staff; $3 for HPU students

       

» Call: 375-1282

       

Equally important for those in search of good, serious, well-written theater in Honolulu, Joyce Maltby's meticulously crafted revival at Hawaii Pacific University is a perfect fit. Each member of the cast seems born to play these characters, and the relatively intimate confines of HPU's Paul and Vi Loo Theatre ensures that the subtleties of their performances don't go unnoticed.

Eden-Lee Murray (Amanda) and Rob Duval (Tom) star in the central roles. Amanda is a faded Southern belle who married badly and now clings to memories of the past while she frets about finding a “;gentleman caller”; for her crippled, painfully shy daughter, Laura. Tom bitterly resents his cunning, manipulative mother and dreams of escaping the warehouse job that barely supports the three of them.

Murray is all the more worth watching in the moments where Amanda is mutely responding to Tom's anger and Laura's passive-aggressive resistance, or attempting to cope with the unforeseen while entertaining a “;gentleman caller.”; Amanda can be played as a tragic victim or as a psychological vampire; Murray and director Maltby balance those elements so that we feel Amanda's pain while also sympathizing with her children.

Duval likewise succeeds in giving us reason to understand Tom's need to escape his mother's smothering embrace, even though he knows what the costs might be.

HPU student Madeline Ruhl makes an impressive debut with her portrayal of Laura. Her work opposite Elitei Tatafu Jr. (Jim) in Act 2 rings painfully true and sets up another emotional flash point.

Tatafu rounds out the cast with a deftly balanced portrayal of a man committed to self-improvement and determined to overcome life's obstacles.

Maltby's tech crew enhances the actors' work. Karen Archibald's set has a genteelly threadbare look; Janine Meyers' lighting design leaves much of the action in moody shadows; and the salmon-colored antiquated ball gown Peggy Krock (costume design) found for Murray adds impact to a key scene.