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Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto at the Booth Theatre
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Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto at the Booth Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr., Jerry Frankel
et al.


Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Brian J. Smith

In the American Repertory Theater Production
The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams
(The Glass Menagerie Website)

At the
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street

Directed by John Tiffany

Scenic & Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Clive Goodwin
Music: Nico Muhly
Production Stage Manager: Steven Zweigbaum
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
Stephen Kopel, CSA
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Press Representative: Irene Gandy/Alana Karpoff
Advertising: AKA
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Movement: Steven Hoggett

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 22, 2013

In 2005, I reviewed Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange as Amanda Wingfield, who looked beautiful beyond her years, but worn; then, in 2010, I reviewed this play with Judith Ivey as Amanda, loud and boisterous. Now, Cherry Jones is Amanda, at the Booth, and she’s ebullient, overflowing in spirit, and a master as the matriarch of a household of three, with maternal obsessions keeping her occupied night and day. Ms. Jones was reviewed in this column in 2010, in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, when I wrote that she “rivets the viewer”. Again, as Amanda Wingfield, mother of Tom and Laura, she rivets the viewer, with her burning sense of restlessness and dread. Amanda was rejected by her wandering, alcoholic husband, and she’s raised Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger), with an un-named physical disability, and Tom (Zachary Quinto), with a habit of disappearing for hours at night, claiming to be “at the movies”, long after the lights have dimmed. Tom has a stale job at a St. Louis warehouse, but that job, as Amanda sees it, is the catalyst for harvesting a “gentleman caller” for Laura, who has skipped her secretarial and typing classes, of late, to walk and wander the recesses of her own mind. When she’s not wandering outdoors, she’s creating fantasy plots for her glass figurines at home. Thus, the play’s title. Her favorite figurine is her unicorn, who’s different from the other horses, with his little glass horn.

Tom narrates the play as a “memory”, as he always wanted to be a writer, and he types and collects material from his brooding home environment. Mr. Quinto, who was so wondrous in Angels in America, exudes loneliness and alienation, nagging desire and internalized conflict. Jim O’Connor (Brian J. Smith, reviewed in The Columnist), the “gentleman caller” Tom recruits to take home to dinner to quiet his mother’s relentless pleading, was, ironically, Laura’s fantasy boyfriend, in high school, who nicknamed her “Blue Roses”. Laura had recovered from pleurosis, and Jim heard “Blue Roses”. Laura kept a scrapbook of her fantasy crush, so when she saw Jim at the kitchen table, she bolted for embarrassment. The subsequent scene of Jim and Laura chatting, dancing, and momentarily kissing brought out a strong visible shift in Laura’s posture, speech pattern, and level of inner joy. For those of us who know the play, the level of foreboding of emotional loss was palpable. When those unfamiliar with the play reached the watershed moment, when hope dies, they sighed in unison.

The audience was totally bound up with these four actors. Cherry Jones arrives for her “dinner with the caller” in a white ruffled gown from her youth, all ribbons and lace. She was reliving her tales of wooing and flirting, even if some of her own tales were as fantasized as those of Laura’s unicorn and animal friends. This connected Amanda, like this connected Laura, had emerged whole, from pity and pathos to pride and pleasure. Doom was near. When Amanda browbeats Tom for raising false hope and pointless prospects, Tom sees doom as well and must escape. Of course, Laura is consumed with doom, as her limp is again pronounced and her shoulders hunched. Her speech takes on the one-dimensional emptiness. John Tiffany, Director, has maximized the characters’ intertwined tension of attachment and antipathy, resignation and resistance. Bob Crowley’s brilliant set casts the spartan interior home, plus exterior wooden stairs and deck with a watery moat around it, showcasing the island on which the Wingfields live. It also created distance between present and past, as Tom is telling us this poignant tale. Natasha Katz’ lighting shines a spotlight on one character at a time, on the deck’s outer edge, as each seems destined to fall. Nico Muhly’s music is eerie and filmatic, exquisitely conceived. My only concern was the sound design, as Ms. Jones’ dialogue was often muffled, especially when she turned. I hope to see this production once again, soon, to re-visit these richly drawn figures, who seem as fragile as if they were glass. Kudos to all, and kudos to Tennessee Williams.

Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto
in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie"
Courtesy of Michael J. Lutch

Zachary Quinto and Cherry Jones
in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie"
Courtesy of Michael J. Lutch

Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith
in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie"
Courtesy of Michael J. Lutch

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at