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CurtainUp DC Review
The Glass Mendacity
by Rich See
Written and conceived by Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth of Chicago's Illegitimate Players, The Glass Mendacity takes the best and most melodramatic of Tennessee Williams' plays and puts them under a fun house mirror to stretch and warp it to humorous delight. Everything has been mish-mashed -- Big Daddy, Belle Reeve, Menagerie's apartment, Blanche and Stanley from Streetcar, Laura's glass animal collection, Brick and Maggie, the gentleman caller. Alas, no mention is made of Stella, but there is a nod to her when Stanley suddenly bursts out "Starland! Starland!" Like Williams, Morley and Willmorth have a way with the pen and so the memorable lines keep coming at the audience all the way up to the finale where, much like Williams' poetic prose, the lights simply dim when the drama is over.
To add to the mayhem and comedy, director Andrew Lloyd Baughman has done some gender bending casting as a nod to Williams' conscious or unconscious perusal of sexuality and gender in American society. His young company puts their all into this production with no one seemingly holding back. Situated in DCAC's small blackbox space, the set is obviously minimal, but any lack of staging is made up for ten times over by the witty and pointed dialogue.
Tyler Smith as nymphomaniac Blanche Dubois brings a Carol Burnet sense of comedy while innocently delivering lines like "I couldn't draw a pirate to save my life. But I do draw sailors for some reason." When Blanche finally has her silent scream breakdown, it's one of the most hilarious moments in the play. Patricia Penn makes the most of Stanley Kowalski's machismo and shows its silliness with lines like "She'd give me a hickey for every moth I'd catch and eat." While Julia Bilek Hyland's Big Daddy alternates between manly gusto and parental annoyance spewing lines like "It's mendacity! Worse than that it's Shawn Cassidy!" As for Brick Dubois, one needs to see in order to appreciate Stuf N. D'Cloth's interpretation of the leather vested, brooding, sexually confused son.
Matt Baughman as "Big Momma" Amanda Dubois shines most when talking about his/her various suitors, especially in a humorous "Battle of the Gentlemen Callers" with daughter Blanche. Katherine Lawrence takes victimhood to a new level with the limping, vomiting, socially anxious Laura. The scene between her and Stanley over the giraffe from her animal collection is memorable. Jill Vanderweit as gentleman caller Mitch O'Connor is a mix of sensitivity and self-involvement -- in love with Blanche and totally unaware of Laura. And Ally Jenkins as Maggie the Cat prowls around the stage in alternating slips while trying to describe her inner turmoil: "I feel like...a gerbil on a hot iron. No that's not it..."
If this first show is any promise, Landless Theatre has a fun-filled 2004-2005 season in the works. Seemingly picking up where Cherry Red Productions has left off, they've combined art and inanity into a comedy fest they are marketing as "Tennessee Williams Exploited." It's a shame the Kennedy Center never returned their call...
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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