The portion of Tennessee Williams' soul that was tortured—and the torture was never more perceptible than in The Glass Menagerie—infuses and inflicts the words and the lyricism of his semi-autobiographical masterpiece. Williams is the frustrated poet and more-frustrated son, Tom Wingfield, the character through whose memory we glimpse a St. Louis household oppressed by a love-you-to-death mother, a crippled and emotionally paralyzed sister and a misguided reverence for the imagined gentility of the Old South (courtesy of mother Amanda). Williams' own mother, Edwina, was emphatically neurotic, and his older sister, Rose, was schizophrenic and institutionalized most of her life.
The Glass Menagerie, first produced in 1944, remains an absorbing and disturbing work of theater, especially when its dominant figure, Amanda Wingfield, receives the towering, tangled interpretation requisite of the character. (Laurette Taylor originated the role on Broadway; among those who distinguished themselves in later filmed productions were Gertrude Lawrence and Katharine hepburn.) Rosina Reynolds is the ideal choice for Amanda in Cygnet Theatre's new production in Old Town. A veteran actor of well-documented versatility, Reynolds' instincts are on target throughout the play, whether she's called upon to exhibit smothering mother love, wispy southern grace or spurts of temper awash in pain and resentment.
Reynolds, who fittingly commands every scene in which she appears, is complemented by Francis Gercke as the conflicted son, Tom; Brian Mackey as the affable and sympathetic Gentleman Caller; and Amanda Sitton as daughter Laura. Sitton, an intuitive and expressive actor, is most affecting when her character is not speaking but instead crouched on the floor before her animal friends of glass, or curled up, like a frightened fetus, on the couch.
Director Sean Murray has all the pieces in place for an unbreakable Glass Menagerie (though the use of recorded tinkling piano during some of the dramatic interludes feels unnecessary). This is a dark story recounted in stark memory where hope is elusive and love an enigma. You're somewhat surprised when you exit into the Old Town festivity and nothing in the night has changed.
The Glass Menagerie runs through Nov. 13 at the Old Town Theatre. $24-$49.
The Broadway Follies Goes Hollywood: A spoof of Hollywood movies emceed by “Groucho Marx” (Douglas Davis). Runs Oct. 29 and 30 at Avo Playhouse in Vista. $20. broadwayvista.com
The Drowsy Chaperone: This showwithin-a-show salute to the Jazz Age won the Tony for Best Musical in 2006. Opens Oct. 28 at Coronado Playhouse. $20-$25. coronadoplayhouse.com
Of Mice and Men: Daren Scott directs this stage adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1937 novel about George, Lennie and the California of the '30s. Previews Oct. 26 through 28; opens Oct. 29 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. $22-$38. newvillagearts.org
Spring Awakening: This multiple Tony winner (with music by Duncan Sheik) is presented by American Rose Theatre. Opens Oct. 28 at Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. $20-$30. americanrosetheatre.com
Dead from New York: It's Pepper & Sam: The brother-sister duo Pepper & Sam kick off a new cabaret series at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. Through Oct. 30. $20-$29. diversionary.org
Master Harold and the Boys: Community Actors Theatre presents Athol Fugard's powerful work about bigotry and loss of innocence. Through Oct. 30. $12-$14. communityactorstheatre.com
Somewhere: A family's dream of being in show business collides with the filming of West Side Story in their neighborhood. Through Oct. 30 at the Old Globe's Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park. $29-$75. oldglobe.org
Man of La Mancha: The actors are also the musicians in this staging of the Broadway musical that gave the world “The Impossible Dream.” Through Nov. 4 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. $44-$47. welktheatersandiego.com
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s.
Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 4 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. $28-$58. lambsplayers.org
Dead Man's Cell Phone: Technology and mortality intersect in this new comedy by MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient Sarah Ruhl. Delicia turner Sonnenberg directs for Moxie Theatre. Through Nov. 6. $20-$40.
Fear Beautiful Fear: DangerHouse Productions presents works by Edgar Allan Poe in the Grand Guignol tradition. Through Nov. 6 at Victory Theater in Sherman Heights. $10-$15. dangerhouse13.com
Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show: Brad, Janet and, most importantly, Dr. Frank N. Furter return to the stage 38 years after a memorable debut in London and a film adaptation. Through Nov. 6 at the Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
The Glass Menagerie: Cygnet Theatre presents Tennessee Williams' dark and multilayered play about Amanda Wingfield, her son, her daughter and a gentleman caller. Through Nov. 13 at Old Town Theatre. $24-$49. cygnettheatre.com
Heroes: Tom Stoppard's adaptation of French playwright Gerald Sibleyras' comedy about three World War I veterans reminiscing and reflecting on their lives. Through Nov. 13 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. $32-$49. northcoastrep.org
The Servant of Two Masters: Former Lamb's Players Theatre staff member David McFadzean (who went on to create Home Improvement) returns to Coronado with a new Italian-flavored musical comedy. Through Nov. 20 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $14-$60. lambsplayers.org
Gypsy: A Musical Fable: Ion Theatre presents the classic musical by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Through Nov. 27 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn. $10-$34. iontheatre.com
Shotgun Wedding Anniversary: How else can a miserable 25-year marriage end but in murder? Presented by Mystery Cafe, it's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. $59.50, including dinner. mysterycafe.net