Tom, a stark, weary narrator in a Navy coat and stocking cap, begins Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" saying that most plays offer illusion that masquerades as truth. He promises instead to offer "truth in the guise of illusion."
Director Lance Marsh guides a superb cast in the Civic Center's CitySpace setting, where the tiny stage works to create such a cramped atmosphere that they all seem trapped. Don and Jane Childs team-design set and costumes beautifully to capture the Thirties period.
Amanda is richly realized by Linda Leonard, whose nagging is so cheerfully optimistic that one understands Tom's conflicted feelings. Watching her sell magazine subscriptions by phone and improvising month to month, it's impossible not to feel for this woman, still paying for a forbidden elopement with a charmer who then left her with no skills and two children. Her efforts may seem clingy and annoying, but it is hard to dismiss a kind of bravery in her constitution.
Dori Neff's Laura is touching and believable, especially the glow that lights up her face when she emerges from her shell. Duke Anderson's Jim is equally wonderful to watch. Desperate to recapture his high school glory days, he still can find enough empathy to override his own disillusionment and offer Laura a confidence boost.
David Mays is haunting as Tom, beautifully drawing the distinction between his two selves. He's youthfully on the edge of coming apart at any moment in St. Louis, but the older, broken Merchant Marine roams the world with aching memories in his pockets. The hollowness that reveals itself comes from his realization that the world may permit him to abandon Amanda and Laura, but without his soul's consent, he will never be able to truly leave them behind.