Rarely have I seen such a first-rate production of such a fourth-rate script than Las Vegas Little Theatre's "The Glass Mendacity."
Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth's 1989 spoof of Tennessee Williams' works brings together characters from several plays to celebrate the birthday of the dying but still robust patriarch, Big Daddy. It's the mousy Mitch from "A Streetcar Named Desire" meets Laura from "The Glass Menagerie," and Maggie from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," who's having an affair with Stanley from "Streetcar" while a Paul Newman mannequin watches all.
If you don't understand any of this - and if you don't get the connection between Williams and madness, mendacity and menageries - then I think you will be lost.
And even with that knowledge, I didn't get the humor.
When Stanley is trying to coax timid Laura out of the bathroom, he offers to put on a record. "What would you like to hear?" he asks.
She replies, "Muskrat Love."
He zings back, "Anything but that."
Do we really need to resurrect Williams for these kinds of jokes?
But what director Walter Niejadlik and cast do to all this nonsense is worth experiencing. The actors give the text what feels like the perfect level of realism: not too serious, not too goofy. When Laura announces, "I have a limp and I'm shy, I get tense, I vomit," you laugh not necessarily at the line, but the way actress Bonnie Bell carefully maneuvers her mouth around the letters so that she conveys comic helplessness. David Sankuer is an authoritative and lost Big Daddy and, despite his one-liners, comes across as a man genuinely concerned about who, among all the very troubled characters, should inherit his estate. Ryan Balint enjoys a lyrical moment as narrator Tom, before seamlessly transforming himself into Mitch, the mama's boy.
Balint's homey, detailed set is rich in ambience. Penni Paskett's costumes tell us a lot about the characters. Jonathan Pillen's lights are smoky and seductive.
I just wish the script had given them all some help.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com.You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box, Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.