Beer takes good care of classic

By Donald V. Calamia

I'll let you in on a little secret: I cringe every time I'm scheduled to review Tennessee William's "The Glass Menagerie."

It's not that I detest the script; it truly is a masterpiece. But over my 30-plus years as an avid theatergoer (and 25-plus as an off-and-on-again critic), more often than not I've been subjected to some pretty dreadful productions - thanks primarily to inexperienced actors who move the play into the realm of melodrama, or those who underplay the characters and lose every emotional nuance Williams built into his powerful "memory play."

Director Arthur Beer finds the happy medium, however, with his thoroughly engaging production that opened The University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company's 2007-08 season this past weekend.

As the tragically flawed family matriarch, Amanda, recent Wilde Award winner Diane Hill hits all the right notes as a faded Southern Belle who's obsessed with finding a husband for her painfully shy and slightly handicapped adult daughter, Laura. Sure, she's a pushy nag who'd drive ANYONE insane - or, at the very least, out of the house. Yet Hill never loses Amanda's dignity and motherly love - no matter how warped they may be.

Kori Bielaniec, as the fragile-as-glass Laura, also nicely explores her character's emotional beats. But she's especially fine in the climactic second act scene in which receives her first-ever gentleman caller (also well-played by David Legato) - and then learns he's already engaged to someone else. It's powerful stuff!

MINI-REVIEW:

'The Glass Menagerie'

The University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company at Marygrove College Theatre, Detroit. Fri.-Sun., through Oct. 14. Tickets: $15. For information: 313-993-3270 or http://theatre.udmercy.edu

The Bottom Line: Students and professionals alike are on the same page in this engaging production!

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