This Broadway entry will be a little longer than my usual few lines of reaction because this is an absolutely extraordinary production.
When The Glass Menagerie came up on one of my discount theater sites I hesitated. I’ve seen so many productions of this classic work and studied it in high school and in college and sat through scene readings in classes and workshops and auditions – I am frankly tired of it. It has locked in my brain as a treacly Southern Gothic melodramatic overwrought work that always starts and ends the same. If not done with full 1940’s sets and costumes it has the suggestion of same, never straying far from the overdone description in the script.
It may have been fresh and innovative when it was first done but as far as I am concerned it has calcified into a guaranteed mood and approach and I have never seen a fresh production. But it featured Sally Field and Joe Mantello and was directed by Sam Gold, so I thought I would give it a shot. Sam Gold and the amazing cast delivered.
When we got to the theater I was paradoxically put off by the mostly empty stage. Oh, here we go with another deconstructed production to focus on the words, I thought. My fear was that I loved that approach with classic tomes like Shakespeare and Aristophanes and Shaw and others. I have never considered Tennessee Williams to be a classic script. But what do I know?
I don’t want to spoil everything about the production – you must see it for yourself. Most importantly to me, they solved the beginning and they solved the end. I have long considered those parts of this script to be the most sappy syrupy concoctions. But in ways you must see for yourself Sam Gold has brilliantly solved them both. And organically created a situation in which Sally Field did not get entrance applause. I know that is how audiences show their appreciation for stars but I always hate that part. Don’t get me wrong Sally was wonderful and a revelation in the role, never over-sentimental, never falling into the trope traps this play has become. But entrance applause always reminds me she is a visiting star. She is an accomplished and talented actress and fulfilled her role beautifully. And don’t get me started about how they fixed the ending. I could go on all night.
I have no idea what the critics will say about this approach and I sometimes delay my blog post to at least see what they will say, even if I disagree. I don’t care what they say. This is brilliant and I will never see The Glass Menagerie in quite the same way again.
Now, Mr. Gold, please turn your eyes to my favorite Tennessee Williams script – Night of the Iguana. I want to see what you can do with that!