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The Glass Menagerie

- Backstage with the Playwrights

The Glass Menagerie
At the
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street

Starring Jessica Lange
Josh Lucas, Sarah Paulson, Christian Slater

Directed by David Leveaux
Scenic and Costume Design: Tom Pye
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Hair/Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Music Composed by Dan Moses Schreier
Press: Philip Rinaldi Publicity
Technical Supervisor: Larry Morley
Casting: Pat McCorkle, CSA/Bonnie Grisan
Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L. Becker
General Manager: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Producers: Bill Kenwright and Shubert Organization

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 23, 2005

It was well worth the slippery walk to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on one of the iciest, windiest nights of late winter to see another superb David Leveaux directed production (See reviews of Fiddler on the Roof and Nine). Leveaux loves dramatic silhouettes and unique stage devices and sets. In this interpretation of The Glass Menagerie, with Jessica Lange as the shrewish mother in heat, Christian Slater as the trapped, adventure-seeking son and charismatic narrator, Sarah Paulson as the slightly physically disabled and very emotionally disabled daughter, and Josh Lucas as the insensitive, but sexy Gentleman Caller, an eery and ominous haze seems to envelop the action, dialogue, and characters, broken only by occasional jolts of what seems to be a glass harmonica soundtrack.

In fact, I believe the signature sound is the glass harmonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin, because the presence of electric light and candlelight is so intensely intrinsic to the unfolding drama of relationships. A lacy curtain divides the southern home of the Wingfield family, so that some action is in light and some in shadows. When Laura Wingfield, in her twenties, who wears a heavy brace on her leg (possibly from polio, as Tennessee Williams wrote this play in 1945, the year President Roosevelt died), finally found brief moments of happiness in the presence of a man she has longed for since high school, the candles are brilliant. When he leaves in an aura of failed and faded hope, the candles are snuffed. Candles had been lit, in the absence of paying the electric bill, as Tom had a plan for those precious funds.

Christian Slater as Tom Wingfield has a powerful presence, as the narrator outside and the explosive son inside. His athletic lunges and muscular outline serve the drama well, as he cares for his sister with physical edginess, perhaps symbolic of what he’s doing each night when he leaves for “the movies”. This is an overage son, caring for a mother and psychologically paralyzed sister (his macho father, who worked for the phone company, left long ago to meet long-distance callers). The son is about to abandon the home, too, and the mother clutches tightly, as she activates her sexuality in dreamy reverie of her once “fulfilling” life. Her disapproving and driven criticism of her grown children only trap them further into immaturity and irresponsibility.

Leveaux has interpreted Williams’ masterpiece with incredible daring and creativity. The sound of a unicorn breaking pre-warns the image of a heart breaking. It is a watershed moment, with Laura changing from obsession with a fantasy creature to obsession with a live creature and back again. Giving her treasured broken unicorn to the Gentleman Caller is the closest she has come physically to being with a man. Leveaux handles this series of moments so magically that the audience barely breathed. Josh Lucas, as the Gentleman Caller, exudes the innate masculinity for which mother and daughter both long. He is truly an outsider in this desperate family. Sarah Paulson, as Laura, is truly the regressive, terrified child in a woman’s body, even in her finest dress.

Jessica Lange, in body hugging, flowery dresses, including one showstopper, designed to entertain her son’s dinner guest (supposedly for her daughter’s advantage), has a honey-dripping Southern accent, slightly breathy, always intense. She exudes passion, even in anger at her lonely life and fear for her children’s survival, and, especially, in the presence of a man, a stranger, a Gentleman Caller, the embodiment of the young and healthy husband that once was her own. Kudos to David Leveaux, and kudos to Tennessee Williams.

Before this West 47th Street play or after, stop at Amarone Restaurant and ask for Tony, the proprietor. You will discover the freshest, most reasonable, and exquisitely prepared Italian dishes in the area. Amarone is open early, open late, and has a bustling bar, as well. Tell Tony you saw him on

The Glass Menagerie
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Glass Menagerie
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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