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by Rebecca M. Alvin

Top Image: Racine Oxtoby and Jarice Hanson as Laura and Amanda.
Photo: David Chick.

No question, there is something divine about watching Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie here in Provincetown where the play was actually written. And seated outside in the “Playhouse in the Parking Lot” at the Provincetown Theater on a beautiful, starry summer night only added to the specialness of this performance. But wonderful as these circumstances are, it is the production itself that makes this a not-to-miss experience.

The Glass Menagerie, written in 1944, is arguably one of WIlliams’ most loved plays. It has great depth, humor, and his signature understanding of human relationships on full display. For those not familiar, the play centers on a single mother, Amanda (Jarice Hanson), and her two adult children, one a painfully shy introvert, Laura (Racine Oxtoby), and the other a restless soul, Tom (Todd Flaherty) all living together in the 1930s. Tom narrates the play but all three main characters are fully developed as individuals and in relation to one another.

The play, like many Williams plays, is about longing and disappointment and the expectations that sometimes immobilize us. While Amanda is the quintessential overbearing mother, Williams’ brilliance shines through in writing her with such compassion that while she certainly has her moments, we not only laugh in recognition of her maternal tendencies but also feel the motivation behind her nagging, the pressure she puts on her children, the things she says and does that only make matters worse. It would be easy to make her a caricature we’d all laugh at, but that is not Williams’ style, and Hanson knows how to work this in her portrayal.

In this production, director David Drake has assembled a near-perfect cast. Oxtoby’s mannerisms as the anxious, self-conscious Laura and her wide-eyed innocence stand in stark contrast with Hanson’s version of her overbearing mother and Flaherty’s aloof, sarcastic Tom. In Act Two, LeVane Harrington joins the cast as Jim O’Connor, a would-be “gentleman caller” for Laura, whose visit only serves to deepen the disappointment of the troubled family. Harrington also contrasts wonderfully with his bold, confident, overly optimistic swagger.

The lighting designer Thomas Cover has diligently taken into account the production’s outdoor environment, with the lighting changing subtlely, not only for dramatic reasons but also as the natural lighting outside changes throughout the two-hour performance. Set design by Ellen Rousseau is efficient and wonderfully in tune with the family, taking into account their economic class and the matriarch Amanda’s preferences. And Chathoeun Varon Collins provides a lovely, mournful cello accompaniment throughout.

This production of The Glass Menagerie is exceptional, so on point in every aspect, and a perfect, safe space to reflect on its always relevant themes with humor and drama in the town where it was written more than 75 years ago.

The Glass Menagerie is performed outside at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St., Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. through September 2. Currently, masks are required until seated. For tickets and information call 508.487.7487 or visit provincetowntheater.org.