"Haunting and lyrical" or "trite and predictable", The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams’ first major success, provokes a lot of anticipatory judgment before the audience ever walks into the theater. The power of this cast, particularly but not limited to Cherry Jones, upends conventional wisdom. This Glass Menagerie balances the tried and true with updates that draw the audience into the show.
|Zachary Quinto and Cherry Jones|
Journeyman artist Celia Keenan-Bolger takes on the difficult role of Laura. Laura is a whiny wisp of a thing, overpowered by her mother and her mother’s memories of her own youth. Ms. Keemam-Bolger handles the role well, making the moments of hope entrancing, while keeping the moments of anguish from overpowering the story. Laura is crippled both emotional and physically; one leg refuses to move as she wants. Her condition piles on insecurity to her already shy demeanor. In a house where her mother has a huge personality and her brother disappears nearly every night, Laura is weighed down by expectation and pity barely disguised as oversolicitous behavior.
Cherry Jones plays mother Amanda as self-involved but unaware woman who’s interest in others is defined primarily by how much they are interested in her. Her performance is stellar, refracting every conversation and interest into a reflection on her. Amanda weighs oppressively on both Laura and Tom, her son played by Zachery Quinto. Mr. Quinto plays Tom subtly, with a controlled emotion that only slowly reveals itself to be fury and claustrophobic dread.
The Glass Menagerie takes place in a small depression era apartment some years after Amanda’s husband and the father to Laura and Tom, has left. Both Amanda and Tom worry that the frail Laura will be a spinster, lost in her world of glass knick knacks – they will have to take care of her always.
Through Amanda’s pushing, Tom finally brings home a young man from the job in order to set up Laura. Brian Smith plays the Gentlemen Caller – Jim. Mr. Smith does a hell of a job with the role, managing to transform himself and Laura in front of our eyes.
The staging and pace of the show is beautiful, if slower than modern audiences are familiar with. Director John Tiffany has brought the play forward as a period piece without making it feel dated. This Glass Menagerie will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
The Glass Menagerie
Playwright: Tennessee Williams
Director: John Tiffany
Cast: Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bloger, Brian J. Smith