What a breath-taking revival of The Glass Menagerie–yes, I gasped aloud twice–producers Jeffrey Richards and John N. Hart and director John Tiffany in conjunction with A.R.T. (the American Repertory Theater) have brought to the Booth Theater. (222 W. 45th St.)
Multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning Cherry Jones gives a flirty, fiery, dictatorial, yet sympathetic performance as Amanda Wingfield, a former Southern belle abandoned by her husband. With the best of intentions, she crushes her fragile children–Tom and Laura– in order to have them make something of themselves for their sake and hers.
Two-time Tony nominee, Celia Keenan Bolger, played the sickly and crippled Laura (shhh, no one say crippled) with just the right balance of perverse shyness, inferiority, and moments of transcendent joy in her glass collection. The symbolic light that shines on her face from the glow inside her glass unicorn is a coup from lighting designer, Natasha Katz.
Stage and film star, Zachary Quinto, a melancholic and desperate Tom, was so deeply into his role that he was still the guilt-ridden Tom Wingfield who had to leave his mother and sister in order to attempt a life for himself when the curtain rose again for the standing ovation.
The Gentleman Caller, Jim O’Conner, played by Brian J. Smith (The Columnist, Come Back Little Sheba) that Amanda Wingfield browbeats Tom into bringing home from his warehouse job to meet Laura, is an emissary from the world outside the three Wingfields Depression-era St. Louis apartment. (Costumes and set design by Bob Crowley.) Like Amanda, his best days are behind him. In high school he was a star who everyone was in love with, including Laura. He nicknamed her “Blue Roses” because he misunderstood when she told him she had had pleurosis. Although he lectures Laura on her “inferiority complex,” you can see his own self-doubt beneath his bluster. Your heart is broken when he kisses Laura only to admit that he is engaged to someone else.
Tom, an alter ego for Williams himself with his histrionic mother and a mentally ill sister, is the narrator of the play. He sometimes lurches into the scene. overcome by memories that he can’t leave behind. In the world of memory, anything can happen. The skeletal staircase functions as both the ship that Tom is on when he runs off to be a merchant marine and the fire escape of the Wingfield’s apartment, and also, symbolically, a stairway to the heaven of one’s own dreams.
Wait until you see the hand gestures, and some other surprises (movement by Steven Hoggett) which would be a spoiler if I wrote about here. In the pools of darkness, the glints of moonlight, you are haunted by Tom’s ghosts, even as they live.
Tickets can be purchased at Telecharge (212) 239-6200 or at the Box Office of the Booth Theater. Hurry. Last performance as of now is Jan. 5.)