With its heady dose of "truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion," Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" secured the playwright's claim to fame in 1944. The work has lost little of its subtle power, which is currently being reinforced in a sensitive production from Rep Stage.
Greggory Schraven's set deftly conjures up the claustrophobic world of the Wingfield family's apartment in St. Louis, where the past grins on the wall - a photo of the missing father who "fell in love with long distance" - and where the future crouches unnervingly out on the fire escape that doubles as an entranceway.
Inside, lives are ruled by Amanda, a fading bloom of Southern gentility. She's overly protective of her handicapped daughter, Laura, whose only friends are tiny glass animals; overly suspicious of her poetry-writing, secret-filled son, Tom.
Tamara Johnson brings the marvelous matriarch to life with expertly applied nuance, from the rich accent to the smallest physical movements. Although Karl Kippola, as Tom, unfortunately looks a bit older than Johnson, his performance taps tellingly into the character's closeted feelings and ambitions to achieve considerable poignancy. Christine Demuth is an endearing Laura. Disarmingly natural in speech and gesture, Brandon McCoy makes a terrific impression as Jim, the Gentleman Caller who doesn't quite live up to anyone's expectations.
Director Michael Stebbins guides his cast astutely through the drama. Melanie Clark's costumes, Terry Cobb's lighting and, in most cases, David Hobby's projected photos add to the staging's pitch-perfect atmosphere.
"The Glass Menagerie" runs through March 14 at the Studio Theatre, Howard Community College. $12 to $30. Call 410-772-4800 or go to repstage.org.