Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie"

Last Thursday TH and I saw Roundabout Theatre Company's production of this American classic. Directed by Gordon Edelstein, this production offered the innovation of setting the entire play in the New Orleans hotel room in which Tom Wingfield lives out his unfulfilled literary ambition, after he abandoned his aging mother and crippled sister. The staging made clear that the play is Tom's creation, from different parts of remorse and self-justification. We saw things from his point of view as oppressively as we remained in that dingy, spartan room.

As if to match the dourness of the setting, the lyricism of Tom's speeches had also been exchanged for the gritty realism of the work of an incompetent writer. Patch Darragh was rather inconsistent in his portrayal of Tom, at different times fey and butch, as one NYT reader commented. The interpretation leaves no doubt that Tom is gay, and that the movies is an excuse for frequenting the bars. Judith Ivey was convincing as the naggy, whining Southern belle Amanda Wingfield, who cannot forget she was a beauty in her youth. Ivey flashed a will of steel at times, steel wrapped in lace.

Keira Keeley played Tom's sister Laura as wholly a victim. Her temporary improvement, when wooed by the Gentleman Caller, did not seem persuasive because she was such a drip before that. The Caller Jim O' Connor was played by a forgettable Michael Mosley. The candle-lit scene between Laura and Jim dragged, fatally.

This was the first time I had ever seen Tennessee Williams performed on stage. I have yet to discover why he is so revered.

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