Sally Field is back on Broadway in a new revival of "The Glass Menagerie," which opens at the Belasco Theatre on Thursday night. NY1's Roma Torre has her review.
It's strange to see "The Glass Menagerie" returning to Broadway so soon after the stunning revival less than four years ago. But here we are again. This time, Sam Gold is in the director's chair imposing a bizarre conceptual take on the great memory play that, despite some strong performances, may be best left forgotten.
The Playbill cover is a tip-off that this is not your grandmother's "Glass Menagerie." Sally Field as the iconic mama bear Amanda Wingfield is sitting at a folding table in what appears to be rehearsal garb. And true to form, the stage is stripped bare right down to the back brick wall. The cast is in contemporary attire, and despite references to the characters' southern roots and St. Louis setting, there's no particular accent to speak of.
Of course, Tennessee Williams did not intend the play to be all that realistic. It famously begins with Tom, the author's alter ego, saying "I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." So there's wide room for interpretation.
But what Gold has devised is quite confounding. Part of the problem is that his directorial decisions are so radical in some cases they take the audience out of the play's poetic reverie. The decision to cast a young disabled actress to play the painfully shy Laura puts the emphasis on the character's physical handicap, when in fact it's Laura's extreme insecurities that make her life tragic. And the play's text refers to her "walking," but that makes no sense as presented here.
The production's selective reality seems curiously random. House lights remain on well into the early scenes; props are visibly stashed on a cart. And Sally Field looks about the same age as the silver-haired Joe Mantello playing her son, a character who by the way is supposed to be younger than Laura, played by 20-something Madison Ferris.
Individually, Field, Mantello and Finn Wittrock as the Gentleman Caller do excellent work, but stylistically the cast doesn't mesh all that well. I can only imagine what they could have done in a more coherent production.
I applaud any director's efforts to reimagine the classics, but this production never got beyond the experimental stage, and should have been left in the rehearsal room.