Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Broadway Revival Feels Fresh And New


I never realized how much I have been influenced by Tennessee Williams and his incredible play "The Glass Menagerie." I've known the play for 28 years when a certain director challenged a group of high schoolers by producing it and I got my first taste of Tom. The play also greatly influenced my characters of mom and sons in my bookWell with my Soul. Sitting in the Booth Theatre, it hit me what an impact it has held on me as I witnessed an amazing production currently running on Broadway.

Everything about it is magical. And why not. Tom says "I have tricks in my pockets, I have things up my sleeves" and director John Tiffany has used many throughout these luscious performances. Any reviewer (I'm looking at you, Mark Kennedy) that gives away such tricks in their reviews should be banned from attending future theatrical performances. You don't tell what a magician does. You let an audience experience it. And we do in this production. Tom says the play is memory as he steps back into it and pulls his family out of the crevices of his dark mind...a mind illustrated by the blackness of the set. The floor of the apartment hovers over a black liquid abyss - making it completely isolated in time and space. Yet it also conveys a lonliness and a place that Tom desperately wants to escape. Kudos to Bob Crowley on this.

Yes - I will speak of Tom first as it feels as if Mr. Williams calls from the dead in this role and it is the role I am most close to having played him all those years ago. Well before I could understand the depth of his character. Zachary Quinto is mezmorizing in his Broadway debut. His Tom is energetic, aloof, a hot pot ready to boil - yet nurturing when it comes to his sister. That sister is played by the oh-so-talented Celia Kennan-Bolger. She is frail, soft spoken, magical, and her Laura is almost forgotten in this house that has such a dynamic and explosive family. Yet as much as the character may attempt to meld into the woodwork and not be noticed, the actress is still electric in her subtlety. Her scene with the gentleman caller, played by Brian J. Smith, has been used in many a scene study class for years. Yet I've never seen him played with such gusto and charm as Smith portrays him. The poor man that has no idea of the trap he walks into when invited for dinner goes with the flow of everything thrown his way and boosts confidence from his sheer presence. 

But it is Amanda Wingfield that people think of when speaking of this show. The matriarch that never quite got the life she wanted, lives for her children and through them, and speaks excessively to both enhance and mask what is happening underneath. Cherry Jones gives an Amanda unlike those I've witnessed. At first, I had a tough time getting used to her voice, but I finally let it go and was pulled in to her character. She doesn't overdo the humor that many previous Amanda's have done, but instead we sense the pain she is covering as she longs for a good life for her children. 

The 70 year old play has been extended and I highly recommend this production to anyone that has or hasn't ever seen this show. It really is a remarkable piece of theater.

And Mr. Quinto - I read that you said you'd love to continue to do more and more theater. I happen to think you'd make a fabulous Jacob in the stage version of Well With My Soul. Call me. Let's talk. I'd love to see you stay in New York and continue enthralling audiences with your nuanced performances.

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