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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
at the Laura Pels

GHOSTS, REVISITED
By JESSICA BRANCH

  Judith Ivey/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Whatever your take on its controversial new framing, the latest revival of the quasi-autobiographical Tennessee Williams classic gains new luminescence less from showy staging than from stellar ensemble acting.
 
Directed by Gordon Edelstein, this new production presents the memory play as though the protagonist/author Tom Wingfield (Patch Darragh) were actually reliving the events as he writes about them, seated at a typewriter at the front of the stage. While this affectation makes for some awkwardness in the play’s opening scenes, as his domineering mother, Amanda (Judith Ivey), lectures him on mastication, the difficulties melt away as the play progresses, and the ultimate effect is to emphasize how deeply the events—and people—of the sad story are etched in Tom’s psyche.
 
In this close-knit, tightly-wound family triangle, Tom, an aspiring writer, works in a warehouse to support his overbearing mother, a Southern belle disappointed by the husband who deserted her, and his shy, sweet, crippled sister, Laura (Keira Kelley). Tom’s only escape from the stifling apartment and his mother’s perpetual running commentary is the movies, where he indulges his imagination and perhaps more, much to his mother’s dismay. When Amanda, fretting about Laura’s future, pushes Tom to bring home a potential husband for Laura, he invites a coworker, Jim O’Connor (Michael Mosley), to dinner. Capable and confident, Jim is a breath of fresh air in the Wingfields’ cramped apartment—but he’s also Laura’s high-school crush.
 
Rife with repressed desires and wasted chances, The Glass Menagerie could easily lapse into melodrama, but Edelstein’s deft direction and the well-cast, talented ensemble make the familiar play shine again. Instead of being presented as caricatures, the characters are all treated with a sympathy and understanding that illuminates their tangled motives and relationships. As the frustrated Tom, torn between his family and his future, Darragh brings a rueful perspective to the rage, while Ivey’s Amanda demonstrates the matriarch’s micromanaging without minimizing her real concern for her children. But the play’s climactic scene when Amanda and Jim at last make real contact is the piece de resistance, as the soft-voiced Kelley and Mosley make their characters’ connection as palpable as it is doomed—and Kelley reveals the unexpected core of strength and self-knowledge in her frail character. With performances like these, we don’t need the typewriter downstage to remind us that, although Tom may have escaped physically, the ghosts of his family haunted Tennessee forever. 

 


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