HOUSTON -- With the revival of The Glass Menagerie drawing to a close, what has local actress Shondra Marie learned about Laura Wingfield, the delicate keeper of the titular collection?
"I've learned that Laura is not the victim she appears to be at first reading. She has a streak of independence in her." Area theatergoers have through March 22 to see Laura's fragile strength.
Marie has been portraying the role since Feb. 13 when the A. D. Players opened its revival of the heartbreaking 1944 memory play by Tennessee Williams.
"Laura is not passive," Marie said she discovered. After all, Laura goes walking each workday from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. to avoid business college. In high school she had gone to see her would-be gentleman caller, Jim, in The Pirates of Penzance for all three of its performances. She is sent out on errands by her mother, Amanda, the aging Southern belle of a matriarch who, despite sincere intentions, dominates Laura -- or wants to. Such textual considerations suggest to Marie a certain stamina in Laura.
What's more, over the course of the six-week run, Marie realized how much the mediator Laura is between Amanda and Tom, Laura's brother. Tom is the ambivalent participant/observer to the familial scene. "Laura's brother and mom are pretty volatile, their emotions bubbling to the top. Laura tries to smooth things over. There tends to be one of these types in every family," Marie said. Perhaps the strongest indication of Laura's burgeoning autonomy occurs between Jim and her, when her favorite animal from the glass menagerie, the unicorn, is broken. In Marie's interpretation, Laura attempts to comfort him. "The unicorn is a mythical creature. Now her dream is broken. It's time for healing."
Despite Tom's melancholy narration, Marie sees a sense of hope at the end of The Glass Menagerie. "Laura and Amanda are strong. They'll survive. It won't be easy, but they'll get on. They have to, what with Tom, their primary provider, having left.
"Even more, both now share the experience of dashed expectations. So their bond now isn't just as mother and daughter but as woman to woman. Their relationship has evened out, or at least begun to.
"Laura may even be able to move into society with a little more self-confidence. She's not that different from anybody else. I mean, she has a lovely mind and in a way Jim found her attractive, didn't he?"
The Glass Menagerie concludes Mar. 22 at the A. D. Players in Houston. For tickets, $16, call (713) 526-2721.
-- By Peter Szatmary