The Glass Menagerie. Booth Theatre (see Broadway). By Tennessee Williams. Directed by John Tiffany. With Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Brian J. Smith. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
The Glass Menagerie: in brief
Tennessee Williams's 1944 masterpiece returns to Broadway starring stage legend Cherry Jones, alongside Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger. The appropriately haunted, expressionistic production—which debuted earlier this year at Boston's American Repertory Theater—is staged by John Tiffany (Once).
The Glass Menagerie: theater review by David Cote
“The play is memory,” backward-gazing Tom Wingfield (Quinto) informs us early in The Glass Menagerie, setting a challenge for any director. What theatrical form should Tom’s remembrance take? Fog? Dim lighting? Grainy black-and-white projections? The solution hit upon by John Tiffany (Once) is elegant and mysterious. The Wingfield apartment—tensely occupied by Tom, the smothering matriarch Amanda (Jones) and shy, disabled sister Laura (Keenan-Bolger)—is an island in a moat of dark, shimmering liquid. Now and then a character ventures downstage to stare into its inky depths—perhaps glimpsing both past and future.
Tiffany and his team offer other new touches: much plaintive piano underscoring; abstract, gestural movements; and the notable absence of small, crucial props. If you were to isolate and scrutinize these choices one by one, they might seem fussy. But the atmosphere is so perfectly wistful and dreamy, and it supports so outstanding an ensemble, you accept the surface tricks.
Jones is a powerhouse Amanda, a faded Southern belle who unwittingly engineers an emotional tragedy for her daughter. Her Amanda is no vain, prattling monster, but a sensuous romantic who hugs her children too close. Keenan-Bolger has toned down the misplaced spunkiness I saw in her Laura when I caught the Boston run in March. Though Quinto’s voice strains a bit to project Tom’s exquisite, poetic narration, the actor’s rueful longing, and flashes of camp comedy, are deeply moving. Lastly, Brian J. Smith finds hints of desperation in Jim, the gentleman caller.
The 1944 drama was a call for lyricism and emotional rawness on the American stage. This fresh and keenly urgent production feels like a triumphant homecoming.—Theater review by David Cote
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
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