The Glass Menagerie
Review by Franco Milazzo
Its taken her a lifetime but finally the American stage and TV actress Cherry Jones has finally made it to London in an inspirational revival of The Glass Menagerie.
Jones may be more familiar to British audiences through TV shows like 24 and Black Mirror but in her home country she is revered for her theatre work. She starred in this award-winning version of the semi-autobiographical Tennessee Williams classic when it appeared in Boston and Broadway and, along with Brian J Smith as the Gentleman Caller, follows it over her as it debuts at the Duke of York Theatre.
Matriarch Amanda Wingfield lives with her son Tom and daughter Laura. Her husband worked for a telephone company, “fell in love with long distance” and abandoned the family a dozen years ago. Tom is a dreamer who skives at work to write poems and considers emulating his father’s escape. Laura is a shy, limping creature and keeps a collection of glass figurines.
With strongly autobiographical elements, Williams’ “memory play” conjures with the concepts of time and perception, love and family, and duty and desire. His script is scattered with aphorisms aplenty like “the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it” and “all pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.”
The role of Amanda is a killer one and it is easy to why it has attracted the likes of Jessica Lange, Katherine Hepburn, Sally Field and the original Sally Bowles Julie Harris. Double Tony-winner Jones does a superb job in bringing out the character’s strength and tragic nature while never disappearing into a puddle of self-pity and sentimentality.
Jones is worth the ticket price alone and she is joined by a worthy cast. Taking over from Zachary Quinto (who played Tom in both the US runs), Michael Esper does a sterling job as the boy with his head in the clouds. As the timid Laura, Kate O’Flynn truly finds the heart of a character who – between a mother tethered to the past and a brother whose eyes are fixed to the future – seems content to live in the present. Smith only appears in the final act but does a magnificent job as the catalyst of this play’s most dramatically crucial moments.
In giving us glimpses of his difficult past, Williams uses the metaphor and magic realism in The Glass Menagerie superbly. Those new to this play will enjoy this witty and light approach to what is ultimately a deeply depressing story; connoisseurs will surely revel in Jones’ astonishingly bravura turn.