Mary-Arrchie's "Glass Menagerie" Set for Transfer
by Hedy Weiss
For the second time this season, an acclaimed production that originated at the Mary-Archie Theatre is headed for a transfer and an extended run.
On the heels of its hugely successful production of "Superior Donuts" (which played at the Royal George Cabaret), the company's haunting, innovative take on the Tennessee Williams' classic, "The Glass Menagerie," is now set to move to Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, running for an additional six weeks beginning May 22, The original cast will be reuinted following several actors' previous commitments to Lookingglass Theatre productions. The current production of the show at Mary-Arrchie ends Feb. 17 and is currently sold out.
With innovative direction by Hans Fleishchman (who also does a fascinating turn as Tom, the play's narrator), The Mary-Arrchie "Menagerie" takes Williams' opening scene in the play to heart. This Tom (alter ego of the playwright) is something of a homeless alcoholic, and the crucial moment in his family's past that he recalls is truly envisioned as a warped, dreamy memory.
For tickets call (773) 975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org.
The following are comments by Carlo Garcia, Mary-Arrchie's producing director, Richard Cotovsky, artistic director and Fleischmann:
Cotovsky: The rationale for the move? Our Angel Island space is a classic 50-seat black box and as the buzz began to build for "The Glass Menagerie," our regular run and extension sold out very quickly. We were receiving a hundred calls a day after we had sold out the run, so we knew we had to keep it going to give people who wanted to see it an opportunity to do so. But we wanted to do it right, meaning with the original cast and designers, and the right space. Artistic Director
Garcia: The major hurdles? Scheduling was the biggest one. Ourr talented cast members Walter Briggs, who plays our Gentleman Caller, was already cast in"Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" at Lookingglass Theatre before we started rehearsals, so we knew our time with Walter was limited. During rehearsals, Joanne Dubach, who plays Laura, was offered a role in "Still Alice," also at Lookingglass Theatre. It was important for us to keep the original cast together for the remount, so we pushed back our extension plans to May 22nd.
Fleischmann: Why did we choose Theater Wit as our transfer venue? One of the reasons this production is so affecting is the intimacy of the space and storytelling. As director I wanted to maintain that intimacy with the audience. Aesthetically, the space is actually walled by the original brick of the building - brick over a century old, running upwards of 25 feet along the western wall. To have a feature like this, aiding us in creating an old abandoned alley in the mid 1950's, was a gift.
Garcia: After scouting a few locations, we all decided on Theater Wit. It gives us ample opportunity to add more seats, maintain the intimacy and most importantly accessibility. Our home space is on the second floor of a building with no elevator, which can be difficult for some patrons. Theater Wit is accessible to everyone.
Fleischmann: As for any artistic modifications that might be made...when you run a show with an audience for a couple months it inevitably changes; things sharpen, old ideas are replaced with new ones. However, there are some things that can't change because certain moments are tethered to the production's technical design and were locked in before the show opened. This remount allows us to re-examine those moments and run with them in a new direction. We also have major staging, lighting and sound restraints at Angel Island [Mary-Arrchie's home space]. These design elements cost more money than the theater takes in and, unfortunately, present restrictions on the creativity of the talented artists working on any particular production for Mary-Arrchie. Having these restraints lifted allows all the artists involved to push in the direction originally intended for this interpretation.