Review: The Glass Menagerie

glass menagerie 2013

Another great Glass Menagerie! I was a big fan of the 2010 Off-Broadway revival, and the new Broadway revival is different but equally good in its own way. Some reviewers took the 2010 production to task for being too radical, but this much-admired new production is, if anything, more radical, incorporating dance-like post-modern gestures, from director John Tiffany and movement director Steven Hoggett, throughout.

One thing I like about both productions: Tom Wingfield (played with charm and quiet charisma by Zachary Quinto) finally appears onstage as a 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.

Quinto plays that side of Tom, but with enough subtlety that it never overpowers the central story of Tom’s concern for his beloved sister Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger), but rather makes it richer and deeper. This Tom isn’t particularly repressed, but also isn’t about to tell the truth about his nocturnal wanderings to his mother or sister. Quinto’s performance is the closest I’ve seen an actor come to capturing the essence of the young Tennessee Williams (Tom being the most autobiographical role he ever wrote).

Best of all though, is Cherry Jones’s luminously sentimental interpretation of Tom’s mother Amanda. Terrified that her fragile children will be crushed by the hardness of late 1930s St. Louis, Amanda is often played as either a monster or as tragically misguided. Jones has none of that: This Amanda, in the end, is just as fragile as Tom or Laura, but never less than totally (if overbearingly) loving towards them.

In the end, the 2010 production still has a slight edge as my favorite Menagerie. The artsy movement in the new one is sometimes just too on-the-nose lyrical for my taste. In the end, though, Tiffany does pay close attention to the details of the very specific story and characters Williams created, to great effect. Vibrant, gripping, exciting theatre!

For tickets, click here.

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