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A modern take on American theater classic

by Nobuko Tanaka

Special To The Japan Times

SIS Company’s new production of “The Glass Menagerie” by the U.S. playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-83) looks like a marriage made in theatrical heaven between one of Williams’ masterpieces and an impressive cast.

In the central role of this loosely autobiographical drama centered on a family who’ve lost some social stature is popular actor Eita (who is professionally known by just his first name). He plays Tom Wingfield, a reluctant clerk with aspirations to be a poet. Opposite him, in the role of Tom’s older, disabled sister Laura, is Eri Fukatsu. Laura is withdrawn from reality and absorbed in her collection of glass animals. Fukatsu won the best actress award at the Montreal International Film Festival in 2010 for her portrayal of the ill-fated heroine in Shuichi Yoshida’s “Akunin (Villain),” which was directed by Lee Sang Il.

Alongside them, and acting as this memory play’s chief guide through the family’s fall from Southern comforts to hard times in the North is the mother, Amanda, played by the leading stage actress Ryoko Tateishi. Finally, rounding off the cast list in glittering style is Kosuke Suzuki, a rising actor in the role of Laura’s idol, Jim.

Speaking recently, Fukatsu has said she has wanted to play Laura for a long time. She believes that this play is relevant to families anywhere, in which “all the four characters have weaknesses that people can naturally sympathize with.”

For 36-year-old director and playwright Keishi Nagatsuka, this is his first crack at staging a Williams piece — and it’s obviously a challenge that has inspired him. According to the program, he says he is excited to have adopted a new approach to the classic play — one that transports it from the nostalgic setting of the original and has it speak directly to our contemporary lives. He achieves this in part through adjusting the Tom character, but also by using dancers performing in various styles to express that central bridge between past and present.

“The Glass Menagerie” runs till April 3 at the Theatre Cocoon in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. For more information, call (03) 5423-5906 or visit www.siscompany.com.