The Glass Menagerie? Fantastic! Seventeen years ago, our dance group jointly gave birth to Faith Healing, Jane Comfort’s brilliant deconstruction of Tennessee William’s play, The Glass Menagerie. We were working with an amazing team of downtown dancer/actors: Mark Dendy as Amanda, David Neumann as The Gentleman Caller, and Scott Willingham as Tom. I played Laura, the painfully shy, physically and emotionally crippled young girl.
Being a huge fan of Tennessee Williams, I was excited to start the rehearsal process. Since much of Jane’s choreography incorporated text, humor, gesture, and pure dance movement, I had no doubt that The Glass Menagerie was the perfect vehicle for the company.
We began to tinker with Jane’s reinvention of Williams’ play. She interwove chosen snippets of text with original choreography, and incorporated physicalized versions of iconic film segments, which helped to articulate the characters’ inner lives and fantasies. A really fun improvisation resulted in one of my favorite scenes: the segment where David and I “fly” as we’re lying side-by-side on stools, arms and legs outstretched, Superman-style. This scene was totally inspired by David, and grew into a collaboration between all of us. Jane encouraged our participation in the making of the piece, which made me feel personally invested in its success as a creative work.
Last week, I was invited to watch a rehearsal of the 2010 revival of Faith Healing. I was excited to see the piece again, and curious to see how “our” roles would be transferred onto other minds and bodies. The only original cast member is Mark Dendy, and to watch him 17 years later pull out all stops as Amanda was pretty spectacular. It seems life experience has added a more sympathetic dimension to his portrayal of a woman whose time has come and gone. While watching the run-through, the fact that Mark isn’t a woman never crossed my mind.
I was curious to see what Heather Christian would bring to the part of Laura, and her portrayal has a feisty energy that’s refreshing and endearing. After working so closely with David, it was hard for me to imagine anyone else in the part of the Gentleman Caller, but Matthew Hardy brings a sweet, genuine quality to the role that makes it shine. Leslie Cuyjet steamed up my glasses in sexy fantasy scene with “Tom”, and Sean Donovan is flawless as the disturbed Tom; he brings a vulnerability to the part that makes the story that much sadder.
Performing in Faith Healing in 1993 was one of the highlights of my dance career. I’m not sure I ever felt as connected to a part as I did to the role of Laura. To be able to see it again brought me back to the time and place where I was living my dream. I’m grateful I was once part of this amazing piece, and I look forward to seeing the show this month at Joyce Soho.
Nancy Alfaro and David Neumann in the original Faith Healing, photo by Arthur Elgort, Courtesy Jane Comfort