The latest production of yet another THE GLASS MENAGERIE on Broadway is about as unpoetic as it gets. Sally Field as Amanda Wingfield, is okay, and is best when her back is up against the wall and she unleashes pent-up anger, as she’s done in her Oscar-winning performances in Norma Rae and Places in the Heart. Joe Mantello as Tom is miscast. He looks closer in age to his mother Amanda (particularly given Field's naturally girlish face and well-preserved youthfulness) than to his sister Laura. Plus, he plays the mood-setting monologue that opens Tennessee Williams’ beloved work with too much wry humor, slipping into Woody Allenesque cadence in a few patches. Finn Wittrock as Jim O’Connor, the one-and-only “gentleman caller”, with perhaps the easiest of the four roles to master, combines naïve bravado and an adolescent's sense of empathy, that makes the crucial scene with Laura, competently played by Madison Ferris, sting the way it should.
Many have commented that Ms Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy and spends a good amount of time getting in and out of her wheelchair, is a distraction, but it seems more accurate that her impairment has been unfairly put on display. But the core problem with this MANAGERIE is how the production is conceived by director Sam Gold. He scored brilliantly with an impressive, individualistic style in FUN HOME last year, but here with a nearly naked set, harsh, almost uniformly flat, lighting and few props, he’s serving Ivo van Hove-lite. MENAGERIE is, after all, a memory play, and with memories there ought to be images, but there's nothing (almost literally) on stage to spark the imagination. There’s no romance, so MENAGERIE gets robbed of emotion. Even Tom’s simple, haunting, parting line, “Blow out your candles, Laura.." is lifeless, just words.
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