Saturday, March 25, 2023
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The Glass Menagerie - Controversial Sam Gold revival starring Sally Field and Joe Mantello surprises

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

What the world needs now is NOT another revival of Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE so soon after the excellent Cherry Jones/Zachary Quinto revival of 2013 superbly directed by John Tiffany. Or so I thought.

This new unexpected avant-garde revival ensconced in the ghostlike Belasco Theatre belongs heart and wounded souls to Sam Gold its director - the creative mind behind this riveting, stark, explosive, controversial and ultimately tragic production starring Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Madison Ferris and Finn Wittrock with Mr. Williams’ text intact.

There aren’t any dead bodies at the end of this swiftly moving two hour plus production – without an intermission – just extremely wounded human beings. And you will feel for them like you have never felt before.

Not immediately. There is the rehearsal room like set design by Andrew Lieberman to contend with as you enter. More a non-set. A table and some chairs. A small pile of records. A metal unit holding some essential props – a telephone, a candelabrum, a year book, dinner plates, a gramophone, a neon sign, a typewriter among other bric-a-brac that the actors will fetch and use during the show.

The house lights remain up as Joe Mantello, a world weary Tom Wingfield speaks to us – explaining that what we are about to see is a memory. His. Not realistic. The tricks up his sleeve are figurative not literal and we slowly begin our journey into the past. St Louis. The depression.

His delusional mother Amanda (a spritely and tormented Sally Field) enters from the audience dragging a wheel chair up a few steps (their fire escape) and then helping her incapacitated and painfully shy daughter Laura (Madison Ferris – a fine actress - who suffers from muscular dystrophy giving a brave and heart wrenching performance) and we are drawn slowly into their tragic tale of survival.

Somehow you will feel that you are hearing Tennessee Williams’ dialogue for the first time. How alive and vicious. How wickedly funny. How fierce. How sad. How relevant.

Especially when the “Gentleman Caller” arrives – the handsome, chipper and optimistic Finn Wittrock to bolster Laura’s lack of self-esteem in a candle lit scene that forces you to pay very close attention as rain pummels part of the stage in darkness.

We wonder how the about-to-explode Tom has lasted this long in the household with his demanding and overpowering mother. He needs, he longs for adventure – something more than just having a job in a factory. He dreams of becoming a writer. And to escape.

Amanda is a woman of many faces and moods. Sally Field doesn’t hold back one iota. This bitter, frustrated woman whose husband abandoned her relishes in taking it all out on Tom and his sister in the guise of love. Tough love. Resulting in a truly tragic outcome in this fierce battle of wills.

Her latent Southern charm emerges along with a frightful Princess Pink gown when Tom’s co-worker arrives for dinner. Her drawl all but oozes from very pore with unexpected results.

Background musical selections are perfect.

If you have any qualms about seeing this production - set them aside. Forget any preconceived notions and meet the Wingfields through a new set of eyes.

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

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