From the opening minutes of The Glass Menagerie, you must accept that you'll be spending 150 minutes with a difficult family full of sad and disappointed people. That's not often a recipe for a fun night at the theatre, but it is an honest depiction of what erupts when a family faces circumstances and uncertainties it's ill-equipped for. Top credit goes to Tennessee Williams for penning such a stirring masterpiece of a play. That Williams gets such a stellar cast to carry out the events is a tribute to the great playwright.
Cherry Jones carries much of show, with her scenes together with Zachary Quinto (who plays her son, Tom) full of fierce debate and intense discomfort. in this version, Jones's Amanda Wingfield comes across as more sympathetic than she may have been designed to be, thanks to some wonderful acting. The motherly figure straightens up their small St. Louis apartment while simultaneously creating all of the drama that unfolds inside of it. The space itself, designed by Bob Crowley, has a part in taking hold of this family. There's a tangible emptiness on stage due to the shortage of props that goes to calling even more attention to the few that do appear, such as young Laura's glass unicorn that sits front and center.
Celia Keegan-Bolger, in the role of Laura, follows through on this same endeavor, giving a great deal without saying much at all for the most part. The whole cast gives understated performances, at times dancing around, gesturing, or mimicking the others for some laughs and to buy their characters more time to show who they are, devoid of dialogue. Most of all, Quinto demonstrates Tom's soft-spoken, dream-like demeanor by prancing around the stage as if he's the leading man in a ballet, not a somber production. When he does speak, he brings both humor and wisdom that the others in this family seem to be missing out on.
When the gentleman caller (Brian J. Smith) finally arrives toward the end, you have grown to expect the whole ordeal to blow up in their faces. And it does, to some degree, but not for the reasons you'd expect. Williams' play adds a great deal of depth near the end to an already layered play. His total mastery of what these characters would do when faced with adversity comes through loud and clear.
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