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What determines the difference between one’s dreams and actuality? The fragility and delicateness of a shimmering glass menagerie, glittering and wavering, serves as the surprisingly fine line between fantasy and reality in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
The famed play follows the tragic story of the Wingfield family during the crisis of the great depression. The mother, Amanda, (portrayed by brilliant two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones) is merely a scrap of a reminder of the grandiose antebellum South, displaced into the gloom in a small apartment in St. Louis with two grown children. Her son Tom (played by the magnificent Zachary Quinto, of Star Trek fame) is a man slaving away, but dreaming of life away from familial obligations. Her daughter Laura, (the superb two-time Tony nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger) is a shy, crippled girl in need of gentleman callers. But when a gentleman caller (Brian J. Smith) does arrive, he does nothing but shatter the bubble of fantasy the family has been residing in for years.
Broadway’s most recent revival is a poignant and touching production that elicits true human character that many people shy greatly away from in fear. It is the difficulty of facing reality and the power that memory holds to bring back exactly what we are running away from. Jones’ Amanda flawlessly focuses on her glorious past (all seventeen gentleman callers and all) and her inability to accept changing times. Quinto’s outstanding performance as Tom embodies the characteristics of the tragic hero- a man frustrated with his occupation and lack of opportunity that has followed his obligation to support his family. His urge to quit his warehouse job and leave the simple meretricious joys he has in watching movies behind in order to experience adventures himself, reverberates with such power that the audience can’t help but be moved by Amanda and Tom’s neverending struggle in the issue of familial duty. And Keenan-Bolger and Smith play off each other perfectly in their scenes together. Gone are the pretenses of high-school acquaintances and awkward relations as the unplaceable feelings between gentleman caller and Laura blossom from a drive to help her become more confident about herself.
It is not merely the fantastic and thought-provoking portrayals of these four characters that brings magic to the production. The set design and staging are understated, with a simple layout of a small apartment building as the core of this memory play, and a pool of dark, viscous liquid surround the stage, as almost a personification of the self-reflection the characters have to face as they come to terms with the impossibility of their whimsical dreams. However, Laura’s menagerie and tiny glass unicorn that loses its horn are the true epicenters of this production, bringing about the shattering of a long-standing illusion set apart from reality.
What does it mean to be pursuing one’s dreams and what exactly are we leaving behind? What will we chose to remember and what memories will we not be able to escape from? John Tiffany’s stunning new production of The Glass Menagerie will keep audiences thinking and is sure to remain unforgettable to all those lucky enough to catch it.
The Glass Menagerie is currently playing at the Booth Theatre (222 W. 45th St.- between 7th & 8th) until February 23rd only!
A limited number of student rush tickets are available for day-of performances at $35 each. Bring your student ID to the box office, and tickets are limited to two tickets per person. Catch this amazing production today!