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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Broad Satire of Tennessee Williams Provides Silly Night of Theatre


Rick O' Daniel-Munger, Barb O' Daniel Munger, Grace Poganski,
Magdalena Hartman, George Robert Bailey, Kelly Karp & Sean Childress in
The Glass Mendacity. Photo – Louisville Repertory Company.

The Glass Mendacity

Written by Maureen Morley & Tom Willmorth
Directed by Angela Miller

Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Tennessee Williams wrote a great many plays, but even those unfamiliar with his prodigious theatrical output have at least a passing acquaintance with his three most famous works – A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie – plays filled with iconic imagery that have, over time, become clich├ęs in popular culture and would therefore be considered ripe for parody.

Thus we have The Glass Mendacity, a broad-as-the-side-of-a-barn parody of Williams' neurotic-julep-and-magnolia-blossom body of work. The plot is basically a riff on Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, with a crazy-quilt family of characters pulled from all three plays and mixed up as if put through a Cuisinart to produce a rancid comedic gumbo. The DuBois family gathers to welcome Big Daddy (George Robert Bailey) home from the hospital, where a dire diagnosis has set the potential heirs in conflict to secure inheritance of Belle Reve, the family estate. Daughter Blanche (Kelly Kapp) and her husband Stanley Kowalski (Sean Childress), son Brick (portrayed by a mannequin – seriously) and his wife Maggie the Cat (Barb O’ Daniel-Munger), and the youngest and most emotionally and physically fragile Laura (Magdalena Hartman) are all vying for Big Daddy’s favor, while Big Amanda, his wife (Grace Poganski), dutifully tries to keep the peace while forever remembering the exponentially expanding number of gentleman callers of her youth. There is also Mitch (Rick O’ Daniel-Munger), Big Daddy’s lawyer and potential suitor for Laura, who also serves as a narrator.

The script takes a scattershot approach to the wild mash-up of Williams’ elements but maintains a surprisingly clear narrative structure. As many jokes fall flat as succeed, and the lack of subtlety can be grating after a while. Yet there is good energy among the cast and a level of commitment to silliness that wins the day. Every so often someone would manage to bring a moment of nuance to their characterization, but I’m not sure that has any place in such ludicrous business as this. Better to go for broke and overplay it.

The ensemble are all on the same page here, pushing the boundaries without competing with one another and never flinching at the somewhat ridiculous things they are required to do.

One cannot help but wish for a smarter, more thoughtful satire of the overripe tropes of the famous playwright’s work than this script provides; but this amiable production manages to earn its laughs and not overstay its welcome. It puts me in mind of classic Carol Burnett sketches, where Carol might be Blanche, Vicki Lawrence could play Maggie, Harvey Korman as Stanley, etc.; odds are they must have done exactly that at some point. If you long for the that kind of broad sketch comedy or are an aficionado of Tennessee Williams, this show would be a good pick for you.

The Glass Mendacity

October 10, 11, 12, 14, 18, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.
October 20 at 2 p.m.

$16; $11 on Industry Night (October 14). 502-584-7777. Or save box-office fees by using The Kentucky Center's drive-through ticket service.

Louisville Repertory Company
The MeX Theatre, The Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
502-584-7777


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