Handle with care
Memories are amongst our most personal possessions.
The Glass Menagerie, at the Belasco through July 2nd, is Tennessee Williams look backwards with love and regret. His reminiscences could also be said to have the brittleness of glass ornaments.
Amanda Wingfield (Sally Field) lives in fantastical remembrance. Her son, Tom (Joe Mantello) spins a web of care and concern. His sister Laura (Madison Ferris) and a Gentleman Caller, Jim O’Connor (Finn Wittrock) are fragile figments of Tom’s and Amanda’s collective and conflicting recollection.
Not all overprotective mothers who have delusional expectations for their children are of one kind. We’ve seen Amanda intrepreted in any number of revivals.
Sally Field’s rendition is tender-tough. She has just enough steel to bend when disappointed, and a sense of downtrodden grandeur befitting the role.
The Glass Menagerie is a wondrous articulation of poetry written in prose. As its narrator, Mantello plays Tom as straightforward and unsentimental. He is down-to-earth and practical but not unfeeling.
Under Sam Gold’s direction, The Glass Menagerie is presented in bare bones style. Except for a pink ballgown in which Amanda flirts with the Gentleman Calling on her daughter, the actors are for all intents and purposes in rehearsal clothes (costumes courtesy of Wojciech Dziedzic). The minimalism extends to the sets (by Andrew Lieberman) and the lighting (designed by Adam Silverman).
This is one of my favorite of Williams’ masterpieces, but this production is not among my favorites. That is not to say that the cast are not at ease in their characters’ skins; they are convincing and comfortable, showing affection for each other, as the memories unfurl. Like the setting, however, it just all feels too plain, simple and no-frills.
Theirs is an interesting interpretation, of course, and it could be concluded that the simplicity of the decor and costumes, and perhaps even the candle-lit scenes, may force us to concentrate on the words.
My take leans towards the view that rather than underscoring the beauty of the language, the lack of stage embellishments undercuts Williams’ intent.
For more information and tickets, please visit http://glassmenagerieonbroadway.com