Review: The Glass Menagerie

Originally reviewed for GaySocialites.com.

Finally I’ve actually seen a Glass Menagerie that resembles the wonderful, wistful Tennessee Williams play I’ve read so many times. Director Gordon Edelstein has blown decades of dust off the play by simply treating it as if it were a brilliant new play, by an author whose other works we don’t know. This is Tennessee Williams without any attempt to play a generalized “Tennessee Williams style,” which is so damn refreshing.

For one thing, Tom Wingfield (played with warm humility by Patch Darragh) finally appears onstage as a repressed young gay man. That dimension of the character has been hiding in plain sight on the page for over 60 years, observed by any gay man that read it. Darragh plays that, but with enough subtlety that it never overpowers the central story of Tom’s concern for his beloved sister Laura (Keira Keeley), but rather makes it richer and deeper.

Best of all though, is Judith Ivey’s compassionate but unsentimental interpretation of Tom’s mother Amanda. She’s terrified that her fragile children will be crushed by the hardness of late 1930s St. Louis, Missouri.  She does her best to toughen them up, but ends up damaging them even more.

Amanda is often played as either a monster or as tragically misguided. Ivey has none of that: This Amanda is dysfunctional, to be sure, but no more than any other overbearing, overprotective, loving mother. This Amanda, in the end, is just as fragile as Tom or Laura, maybe even more so — and that’s perhaps the most moving revelation Ivey offers us.

This is how Williams should be done, with no sheen of weepy lyricism, but with clear eyes. Tennessee Williams played without “Tennessee Williams style” but with profound attention to the details of the very specific story and character he introduces us to in the play at hand. This is Tennessee Williams not as a museum piece, but as vibrant, gripping theatre!

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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