Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

The Glass Menagerie (Roundabout Theater, 2010)

Last night I saw the Roundabout Theater Company's revival of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie. I highly recommend it.

I don't really understand why I like The Glass Menagerie, since ordinary people doing ordinary things and being unhappy while they do them is really not my usual kind of thing. But it was my favorite of the Williams plays I read in high school for a paper, and pieces of it have stuck with me. When I saw that it would be playing while I was in NYC and got a good review, I went to some trouble to get a ticket.

I think I'm going to put most of this behind a cut so that I can talk spoilers freely. Non-spoiler points: it's funny, it's sad, it's very well acted and staged. One of its characters has a physical disability; I didn't see the play's treatment of that as problematic, but I'm not a great judge. If you like the play and you're able, you should definitely see this production (except that it ends the 13th, so you'll have to hurry).

This is not a proper review because I'm going assume that people know the story. I'm just going to talk quickly about some interesting things about this production. Note I've never seen this performed before.

The staging here is that Tom's present-day room, where he's writing about his family, is the same room as his family's apartment. Sometimes Tom's alone, reading his drafts aloud and making edits as he goes, sometimes he lurks on the edges reading along or making notes, and sometimes he's participating in the past/play. The effect is to make the boundaries between past and present very fluid and to demonstrate just how thoroughly Tom has failed to escape.

(The candlelight scene with Laura and Jim, if not lit only by candles, does a darn good job of faking it. I didn't have any trouble seeing what was going on, sitting about halfway back.)

His mother Amanda is apparently often portrayed as a frail fainting thing? Not so here: she is ferocious in her devotion to, and fear for, her children. She'd be horrible to live with but she's admirable too. And the moments when she and Tom, particularly, are actually having fun and enjoying each other's company are some of my favorites.

As far as Laura, I heard someone comment at intermission that they thought the play was about her but it was feeling more about Tom. The last section rights that balance, I think, and while I could critique the play for the framing device and the way it ends with Tom's pain about running, it still feels to me enough about all three of them that I don't think it falls into the manpain trap. I can see that people might disagree, however.

I would like to imagine that Laura goes on overcome her shyness and lack of self-confidence, gets out of the house, talks to people, and has a happy and productive life. Tom's not there, he doesn't know. And it's not technically impossible. But the entire weight of the play is against it—I mean, the unicorn! Which is another thing I should or could object to, that it's only a tragedy because the author wrote it that way and he didn't have to, but it's so perfect the way it is. What weird impulse is responsible for admiring such exquisitely-crafted pain?

Anyway. I'll have to dig up a copy of the text now to see what staging suggestions it contains and whether there were any significant changes. (It can't have been cut much if at all; it ran a full three hours with 15-minute intermission.)

Tags: theater, trips

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