Thursday, October 23, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: "The Glass Menagerie"

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A new production of "The Glass Menagerie," a Tennessee Williams classic, opened on Broadway Thursday night. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

I've seen quite a few productions of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," and yet, this one stands well above the rest. It retains the haunting resonance of the great classic that it is, and yet, it possesses the originality of a never-before-seen work of art.

The production, conceived by director John Tiffany, who made his distinctive mark on the musical "Once," takes a similarly stylized approach. Blessed with a collective vision that includes exquisite scenic and lighting designs, there is a refreshing clarity to this 70-year-old play.

And as in "Once," choreographer John Hoggett turns the actors' movements into evocatively symbolic gestures. In a memory play that's meant to be almost dream-like, the surreal touch is inspired.

As the iconic Amanda Wingfield, Cherry Jones sets a new standard, at once both a force of nature and a doting mother desperate to protect her children. In this brilliantly grounded performance, her gilded memories of countless gentlemen callers are not so easily dismissed as the delusions of a woman living in the past. And suddenly, all of Amanda's contradictory motives make perfect sense.

Zachary Quinto is equally sublime as Amanda's frustrated son Tom. We ache with empathy for the poet burning to express himself amid the mundane, life-crushing realities of family responsibility.

Celia Keenan-Bolger's sweetly pathetic Laura, is revelatory as well. And in that brief moment when she blossoms in the company of her gentleman caller, a collective amnesia sets in as we somehow forget a tragic end awaits.

Too often, stage classics are handled, much like Laura's glass figurines, with extreme delicacy. Not so this Glass Menagerie. John Tiffany's bravura staging turns the revival into a re-discovery. Then again, this incomparable crew wouldn't need much more than a bare stage to create the kind of theatrical magic so vividly on display.

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