*The Glass Menagerie,* 3/17/17
Richard and I saw Tennessee Williams's *The Glass Menagerie* on Broadway on 3/17/17. I first heard about this production months ago - - it was announced that Sally Field was going to be doing it, playing the mother, also with Joe Mantello as the son and Finn Whitrock as the gentleman caller. The role of the daughter was being played by Madison Ferris in her Broadway debut. I was puzzled about why they would cast an unknown with those three other super famous and semi famous actors, but I thought there must be a good reason. The play was directed by Sam Gold, who did such a glorious job with *Fun Home* and *The Flick.*
It was a lovely and affecting production. I liked it much more than Richard. The production somewhat abstract, very imaginative. It didn't take place in their ratty apartment, it took place on a Broadway stage, with a large workmanlike table and four unremarkable chairs on the side. The black back wall of the theater was exposed, and the wings. I love seeing that.
The director staged the play with a disarming mix of naturalism and magic. The performances were generally straightforward and not particularly heightened, and the actors were dressed in nondescript contemporary clothes, not in clothes from the 30s (is the play set in the 30s? - - I'm not sure). Amanda's grand Southern dress was one exception, that was something special (as usual, no spoilers from me). The magic came in the form of some dreamy and atmospheric lighting and rain on the stage during the romantic scene between the daughter and the gentleman caller.
The most notable (and I'm told, polarizing) element of the production is the casting of Laura, the daughter. Madison Ferris, a recent graduate of Muhlenberg College, was cast in the role. She has muscular dystrophy and the show opened with her moving effortfully from the seating level of the theater up a short set of stairs to the stage. Then Sally Field shlepped her wheelchair up those stairs and Ferris maneuvered herself into the chair. I found it disturbing, and in the end, very meaningful and touching that she was cast in the role.
Richard thought having her in the role went against the text. Williams writes that she walks with a limp, has a leg brace, and makes a bit of noise when she walks. None of that is the case with Ferris, and there were a few other things that didn't quite make sense, with her in the role. And honestly, her performance wasn't so extraordinary. I want to know if Sam Gold put out the word that he was looking for a disabled actor play this part, or if she showed up for the audition and got the role.
Sally Field was wonderful as Amanda. She was a monster who broke your heart (a tricky combo) and of course it was a treat to see her onstage. Whitrock was charming at the gentleman caller. He's a very attractive young man, and typically his character comes across as a sort of dreamboat. Whitrock played him like a bit of a goof, which was a nice change. It made him more human.
The stand-out performance was by Joe Mantello as Tom, the narrator. He played Louis in the original cast of *Angels in America* and has done some other notable acting, but lately has been doing more directing than acting. He was fantastic, he embodied the play and the production is such a deep and meaningful way. The most memorable scene in the play was one I hadn't really noticed before, a scene where Amanda and Tom are talking about the unspoken things that exist between them. Mantello really nailed that scene, you could feel Tom wanting to make a connection with his mother without sharing too much with her.