Written by Tennessee Williams; set and costume design, Bob Crowley; lighting design, Natasha Katz; sound design, Clive Goodwin; music, Nico Muhly; dialect coach, Nancy Houfek; movement, Steven Hoggett; director, John Tiffany
Cast in order of appearance:
Tom, Zachary Quinto; Amanda, Cherry Jones; Laura, Celia Keenan-Bolger; The Gentleman Caller, Brian J. Smith
Performances and Tickets:
Now through March 17, American Repertory Theater, LoebDramaCenter, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass. Tickets start at $25 and are available by calling 617-547-8300 or online at www.americanrepertorytheater.org
The current production of The Glass Menagerie at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge is as paradoxically strong and delicate as the very glass figurines that serve as the play's central metaphor. Based on playwright Tennessee Williams' own guilt-ridden struggle to leave his overbearing mother and mentally ill sister in order to pursue a career as a writer, this haunting and poetic memory play balances a single mother's unflinching tenacity with the heart-breaking fragility of unfulfilled dreams.
Set in St. Louis during the Great Depression, The Glass Menagerie features one of Williams' most iconic characters, Amanda Wingfield, a transplanted Southern Belle abandoned by her husband and left to raise two children on her own. No shrinking violet, Amanda has managed to pick herself up by the bootstraps and, for the past 16 years, make a comfortable, if modest, home for her family. Now that her children are grown, she fears what their lives will become without her steady hand at the helm. She sets out on a mission, therefore, to secure their futures, hell bent on making their lives better than her own.
Ironically, the very strength that has enabled Amanda to endure immeasurable hardship is precisely what has kept her son and daughter from rising up to her expectations. Inflicting an unrelenting - albeit benevolent - tyranny over her children, Amanda has unwittingly suffocated and stifled them. As a result, her melancholy son Tom is now threatening to escape via the Merchant Marines, and her daughter Laura, mildly crippled and painfully shy, retreats inside a fantasy world inhabited by miniature glass animals.
The estimable Tony Award winner Cherry Jones stars as immutable matriarch Amanda. An imposing figure with flashing eyes, Jones' power is unassailable. Yet, she navigates a more nuanced and even likable path than many Amandas who have gone before her. Neither an all-encompassing monster nor a faded and fluttering debutante living in the delusions of the past, Jones' Amanda is first and foremost a survivor. Commanding but also warm, she tempers her ferocious persistence with a cultured gentility that buoys every badgering command and wry correction on an undercurrent of wit and unwavering love. Jones also infuses her Amanda with passion and an unbreakable will. Striding across the stage and clapping her hands energetically, like a kindergarten teacher mustering her wayward charges, Jones' Amanda desperately tries to ignite a fire in her children by using her own still-glowing embers of hope as the spark.
For Tom (Zachary Quinto), Amanda wants stability and sobriety. Never mind that his dead-end job at a shoe factory warehouse is driving him to the bars for escape. For Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger), Amanda seeks a "gentleman caller," a good and responsible young man who will adore and protect her misfit daughter just as she adores and protects her misfit glass unicorn. But what Amanda refuses to see is that even her irrefutably dogged determination cannot force her children's destinies. Her strength alone is not enough to keep her dreams from shattering.