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The Glass Menagerie, Raven Theatre. This was the first play I ever fell in love with–maybe because I grew up in Saint Louis, where Tennessee Williams’s beautiful memory play is set, maybe because my mother had a touch of Amanda Wingfield about her. So whenever I hear another troupe is going to attempt this wonderful work, I sigh and roll my eyes, imagining how they’re going to butcher it.

Raven Theatre’s production took me by surprise. Under the clear-eyed direction of Scott Shallenbarger, it’s one of the most balanced views of the Wingfield family dynamic I’ve ever seen. JoAnn Montemurro’s Amanda isn’t just a nag and a shrew; she’s also been wounded in love and knows in her heart just how harsh the world is. (The play is set during the Depression, after all.) Brian McCaskill’s Tom isn’t just your typical angry young poet burning to be free; he’s also childish and a bit of a fool. And Carri Levinson’s Laura isn’t just a sickly, martyred cripple; she’s as full of thwarted desires as her mother and brother–though being less assertive, she’s less likely to ever get what she wants.

What a gift to see this play with fresh eyes again. –Jack Helbig