Who’d have guessed that the image of a tiny glass unicorn, and the severing of its horn, could still pack such an emotional punch in Tennessee Williams’ early dating play. Or the sight of shy, homely Laura (Tawny Mertes) blowing out candles one by one can still come attached to such devastating symbolism for her future. These are shards of simple, tender poeticism so hard to find in new play writing. Director Brian Kite’s production is largely by-the-numbers — amping up the dreamy aspects of memory in the original piano and violin underscoring, composed by Allan Moon and with sound designer Jason Duplissea. The introspective approach of Toby Meuli’s narrator, would-be poet Tom, makes for a lack of style, even competence, in his audience addresses, somewhat remediated when he enters the scenes and battles for solitude and independence with his mother, Amanda (Lori Berg). There’s a depression across the country and Tom, hanging by a thread to his warehouse job, is the only breadwinner. The rest is all Amanda’s imperious, meddling rectitude, which Berg handles with stoic dignity. Mertes’ shell-shocked Laura comes with layers of sensitivity, and the scene with her one “gentleman caller” — on which Amanda pins all hope for Laura’s future — is just perfect, thanks largely to Stephen Van Dorn’s sweet, cavalier guest, Jim, who arouses such false hope in Laura, beautifully transmitted by Mertes. “I am often disappointed,” says Jim, but I’m never discouraged — right before he breaks Laura’s heart.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: May 2. Continues through June 8, 2008

LA Weekly