There are two important things to know about THE GLASS MENAGERIE, which is currently performing at A Noise Within (ANW) in Pasadena. First, it is an autobiographical work by the wonderful American writer Tennessee Williams (based on his young adult years in St. Louis, MO). Second, it is the play that made him famous.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE is the story of the Wingfields, a family comprised by the mother, Amanda (at ANW played wonderfully by Deborah Strang), an older daughter, Laura (played by Erika Soto), and a son, Tom (played by Rafael Goldstein). Along with Kasey Mahaffy (as Jim O’Connor), the cast is directed by Geoff Elliott.

Tom is frustrated. He wants adventures, but instead he’s stuck working at a shoe warehouse to support his mother and sister. Amanda wants to find a husband for her daughter, but the latter has crippling social anxieties and a handicap. They are a family whose wishes and realities are in conflict. They love one another, but they’re also the cause of each other’s disappointments.

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(background) Kasey Mahaffy, Deborah Strang, Rafael Goldstein; (foreground) Erika Soto.

Deborah Strang is Amanda for a second time at ANW. She had done the part during the 1997-98 season, but this time around she’s the perfect age for her character. She is fantastic as she delivers an eccentric woman who really cares about her children, but doesn’t realize that her over-protectiveness is causing them psychological damage. Goldstein, Mahaffy, and Soto are three of the best actors in the ANW company, this time portraying complicated and conflicted people that are relatable.

Watching the Wingflieds, one cannot help but think of one’s own family, as they are, in fact, glass menageries – collections of peculiar beings that are often at the brink of breaking.

After studying at the University of Missouri for three years, Tennessee Williams (whose real name was Thomas (or Tom… like the son in the play) was asked by his father to leave school and to start working at a shoe factory to help provide for the family. He did so for two years, before going back to school. Knowing that the writer was talking about his own life makes the play quite interesting.  When it premiered in 1944, audiences were captivated by that fact, and by the way the play discusses the all-too-often-seen discrepancies between one’s expectations and one’s reality.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE is an enjoyable play that you should see. Performance dates are listed below, as it is in repertory with Shakespeare’s OTHELLO.

March 30, at 2 pm and 8 pm

April 4 at 7:30 pm

April 5 at 8 pm with a post-show conversation

April 14 at 2 pm and 7 pm (Sunday rush – all tickets $25 available online on day of performance with code SUNDAYRUSH or at the box office after 2 pm)

April 20 at 2 pm and 8 pm

April 25 at 7:30 pm, and

April 26 at 8 pm with a post-show conversation

ANW is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena CA 91107. Buy tickets at anoisewithin.org or by calling (626) 356-3121.

There are $20 Student Rush with ID tickets an hour before each performance.