Glass, which opened Little Green Pig's sixth season last weekend at Common Ground Theatre, does convince us that Tom, the frustrated narrator, protagonist and future wordsmith in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie has considerable common cause with Zooey, who is the vain, empathic and spiritually stringent younger thespian of the Glass family portrayed in the stories of J.D. Salinger.
The adaptation by Little Green Pig artistic director Jay O'Berski achieves this unlikely feat through a crafty—sometimes almost seamless—splicing of passages from Salinger's work, including Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye, into Williams' text. True, in one place, such editing gives the disorienting sense of a film that has suddenly skipped several scenes. But when it fully works, the startling effect could be compared to placing two photographic color transparencies—of entirely different families, from entirely different backgrounds—on top of one another and discovering, against all odds, just how perfectly parts of them match.
In Glass, the images of both families are shot through with issues involving privacy, alienation, devotion, deformity, desperation and beauty, along with the too-close attentions of family, at times. When O'Berski juxtaposes the two, the result is an improbable series of parallax views, with just enough shimmer and distortion to make us slightly giddy with vertigo. Contributing to that distortion are the unexpected layers a talented company adds to the conceit.
John Jimerson's sharp-eyed work as the son presents a young man in a particular sort of transformation. Jennifer Evans' discerning work as the daughter evokes a polio-ridden girl, repeatedly caught in the grip of her sexuality and her prayers, both of which are routinely denied. Her record collection has room for the rantings of a fundamental evangelist, the rawest rockabilly, Otis Redding and Thomas Dolby's improbably soulful chestnut, "The Flat Earth."
Jane Holding's deadpan Southern mother and Trevor Johnson's gentleman caller support a work whose considerable surprises should be experienced without spoilers. O'Berski and crew not only ask what parallels exist between 1920s East St. Louis and 1940s New York City, they're probing what joins those periods and their characters to us, decades later.