Posted in Brian J. Smith, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Cherry Jones, Gentlemen Caller, John Tiffany, Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, Zachary Quinto

As delicate as glass

One might think that
it  would be tiresome to see a play over and over again. One would be wrong if that play were from Tennessee Williams’ greatest hits. They are so subject to reinterpretation that just the anticipation of a new production fires the imagination.

“The Glass Menagerie,” at the Booth through January 5th, rewards the patience of its audiences.

Cherry Jones as Amanda Wingfield and Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura in “The Glass Menagerie” at the Booth.
Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch

As always in “The Glass Menagerie,” Laura’s (Celia Keenan-Bolger) familiar collection of glass figurines are a reminder of how frangible life and memory are.  We know that “The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play because her brother, Tom Wingfield (Zachary Quinto), tells us so as he introduces his narration. We also know that memory can play tricks. Tom illuminates a past he will ultimately leave behind him.

Brian J. Smith as Jim, the Gentlemen Caller coming home for dinner with Zachary Quinto’s Tom.
Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch  

Zachary Quinto wears his “touch of the poet” magnificently. At times he is taken air-borne as the poesy in Williams’ play takes flight. Celia Keenan-Bolger’s understated fragility gives Laura the delicacy of one of her glass pieces. Like her favorite little glass unicorn, she doesn’t fit in. While her unicorn is comfortable with the others in her collection, she is always ill-at-ease. Even the amiable Gentlemen Caller (Brian J. Smith) puts Laura at sixes-and-sevens.  Laura’s mother, Amanda (Cherry Jones) wants to provide a future for Laura who is crippled as much by her inability to connect with others as by her physical disability.

Tom (Zachary Quinto), Amanda (Cherry Jones) and Jim (Brian J. Smith) at the table, and Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger) on the coach in “The Glass Menagerie.” Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch

“The Glass Menagerie” is an often revived work out of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre. This is probably at least in part due to its fluidity of style. The blend of sublime melancholy with a sincere naturalism gives the play its many levels.

In “The Glass Menagerie,” Amanda lives in a world of her own imagining. She lives in a glamorous past, before she married the telephone man “who fell in love with long distance.”  Amanda masks her strength under a cloak of Southern gentility. Cherry Jones does this well, despite the plummy accent that makes some of her bon mots unintelligible.

Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura with Brian J. Smith as Jim, the Gentlemen Caller in “The Glass Menagerie” at the Booth.  Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch. The production has extended to February 23, 2014.

Tom suffers his remembrances as if they were lashes on his flesh. Tom transcends the world of imagination and reality. He recalls and edits where he has been so he is free to travel on to new adventures and move on with his life.  It is Jim, the Gentleman Caller, who embodies a healthy sensibility. He brings a reality to the Wingfields’ home. Brian J. Smith’s affability as Jim is a pleasant is a stark contrast to the family’s insularity.

Natasha Katz’s lighting is a fifth character in “The Glass Menagerie,” moody and intense. The well-designed costumes, and capriciously off-kilter sets by Bob Crowley are a perfect fit for this production.
John Tiffany’s languid pacing in the first act, suggesting a dream-like unreality could be benefit from a little tightening. This is just a niggling issue with this transcendent “The Glass Menagerie.”   It is a noble addition to the author’s grand and eloquent legacy. (See also the review by Tamara Beck on VP at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/11/the-glass-menagerie-worthy-tribute-to.html)

For more information on “The Glass Menagerie,” visit http://theglassmenageriebroadway.com

Author:

For an opinionated woman such as I, blogging is an excellent outlet. This is one of many fori that I use to bloviate. Enjoy! Comment on my commentary.

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