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Friday, October 18, 2013

Broadway- The Glass Menagerie

The current revival of Tennesee Williams' classic play The Glass Menagerie has been called one the best revivals ever by more than one theatre critic and after seeing it this past week, I can concur.

I went to see the amazing Cherry Jones, who I have been dying to see, playing the role of Amanda Wingfield, single mother to two young adult children- Tom, brilliantly played by Zachary Quinto in his Broadway debut, and delicate, insecure Laura, gorgeously portrayed by Celia Keenan-Bolger.

Amanda has been abandoned by her husband, whose presence is still felt even though he has been gone six years. The play takes place in Depression-era St. Louis, and Amanda is panicked about who will take care of Laura. Laura has a severe limp, and because of this, avoids any social interactions.

Her mother discovers that Laura dropped out of secretarial school because she was paralyzed by fear on the first day. The scene where Amanda confronts Laura over this is just so heart-stopping, Jones berating Keenan-Bolger, who looks trapped as an small animal. It gave me chills.

Tom wants to be a writer, but he is stuck working a dead-end job at a warehouse to provide for his mother and sister. He spends his nights out drinking and carousing, and Amanda is panicked that he will lose his job and then what will happen to them all?

Amanda convinces Tom to invite a friend from work to dinner to meet Laura. The gentlemen caller is played by Brian J. Smith, whom I have never seen before, and he stands out as well, not easy to do with these powerhouse performers surrounding him.  I look forward to seeing him in other roles. His scene with Laura is lovely and then so terribly sad.

The Glass Menagerie is frequently called "ethereal", but the performances in this play are anything but. Jones is a strong Amanda, concerned about her family's future and willing to find a way to protect it, no matter what, even while recalling her glory days as a debutante who "had 17 gentleman callers in one day!" It is unclear if this is true, an exaggeration or a complete figment of her imagination.

She imbues Amanda with a steely resolve, a different take on Amanda than others have done. Jones is electric, and when she is on stage, she owns it. Her performance has been called "one for the ages", and is simply not to be missed.

Quinto is like a caged animal, angry at being tethered to his family and looking for a way out, like his father. He is a ticking time-bomb and his performance is ferocious. You wait for him to explode at any moment.

I had seen Keenan-Bolger in Peter and the Starcatcher, where she played Wendy in the fantastic play about Peter Pan's origins, and she was wonderful in that active role. This role is so different from Wendy, she makes you feel Laura's panic when confronted by her mother and her blossoming when she talks with the Gentleman Caller. She is going to be a big star.

John Tiffany, who directed the Tony-winning musical Once, directs here and he uses his staging in a similar manner as in Once. The setting is sparse, but as Tom explains in the beginning, this play is from his memory, and the setting creates that dreamlike feeling.

Brian J. Smith
This is a play that you should see in an orchestra seat so you see the actors' faces close up, as there is so much going on in each actor's look. It is also one that if you paid full-price for a ticket, you got more than your money's worth. I hope it is rewarded come Tony time next year.

I waited outside to get my program signed, and Brian J. Smith and Celia Keenan-Bolger obliged us, even taking photos with many people. Quinto and Jones did not come out to greet fans, which disappointed many theatergoers.
Celia Keenan-Bolger

rating 5 of 5

The show's website is here.

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