‘Durang Menagerie’ Delivers Hilarity

Jesse Gutierrez

Imagine a show where the world of Tennessee Williams is combined with inappropriate hilarity and a dash of Shakespeare.

The Glendale College theater arts department is doing just that all month long in the auditorium, with Christopher Durang’s “The Durang Menagerie,” directed by Larry Biederman.

The show is a combination of four one-act plays written by Durang: “Mrs. Sorkin,” “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls” (a take on Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”), “Desire, Desire, Desire” (a take on Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”), and “The Actors Nightmare.”

The evening begins with a woman emerging from behind the curtains as she gives the audience a general trivia lesson about the theater. She is later identified as Mrs. Sorkin, played by Amy Ackerman. Ackerman is very expressive and at times a bit over the top.

As Ackerman leaves the stage and the curtains open, “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls” begins. Amanda (Ackerman) and her son Lawrence, played by Aren Soulahian, are awaiting the arrival of her other son Tom, played by Ryan Rogers and his new girlfriend Ginny, played by Kim Turnbull.

When they finally arrive, the night begins with Tom ripping his mother’s door off the hinges and Lawrence showing the very loud and overbearing Ginny his collection of precious glass cocktail stirrers, and ending with Ginny revealing that she is a lesbian.

The performance by Soulahian as the disabled Lawrence is hilarious, as he shows his collection multiple times throughout the act and each time the names that he has given the cocktail stirrers changes.

As the lights dim, the transition from one act to another begins. Student Sherri Barnett said, “I really enjoyed the references from the classic plays throughout the first act.”

As the lights come back up and “Desire, Desire, Desire” begins, Blanche, played by Amanda Fontura, is on stage with Stanley (Soulahian) as they await the return of Stella, who has been gone for six years fetching Blanche a lemon Coke.

There is a knock at the door and a young man (Rogers) who is taking a survey enters the apartment, and the chaos begins. First with Blanche asking the young man to join her in bed multiple times and ending with Stanley leaving with the young man to pursue a homosexual relationship.

Stanley eventually returns in a rabbit suit and the act ends where it began, with Blanche and Stanley awaiting the return of Stella.

Amanda Fontura in the role of Blanche Dubious is the perfect mix of hilarity and insanity and was the standout role of the act.

The first two acts of the show make many references to Tennessee Williams, which “may be quite confusing to those who are not familiar with the original plays,” said Biederman.

As the final act, “The Actor’s Nightmare,” begins, the transition is cut short when a spotlight blares on George Spelvin, played Stephen Davalos, who is thrown into a play by the stage manager Meg (Turnbull) where he knows none of his lines or even the play he is in.

He is soon joined on stage by an actress Sarah Siddons, played by Amber Parker, who tells him they are performing Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” but then another actress Ellen (Fontura) tells him they’re performing Samuel Beckett’s “Checkmate.”

As the scenes switch between “Private Lives” and “Hamlet,” George grows increasingly more frantic until the play ends with him playing Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons,” where he is beheaded, bringing the show to a close.

“Our goal with this show was trying to give a funny preview of a handful of classic plays before we actually show a classic,” said Biederman.

“The Durang Menagerie” runs from Thursday to Sunday this week. For more information, call 818- 240-1000 ext. 5612.

The next production of the season is “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a true American classic, written by Tennessee Williams.