Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Glass Menagerie

photo: Joan Marcus

No matter how many times you've seen tragedy unfold for the Wingfield family - Amanda desperately selling those magazine subscriptions by phone, Tom taking those codified night time trips to the movies, Laura blowing out her candles - you're likely to be astonished by this current off-Broadway revival. This "new interpretation" of the Williams classic (from Roundabout by way of Long Wharf) may not quite qualify as a reinvention, but it's nonetheless fresh and surprising. The most defining of director Gordon Edelstein's contributions is his decision to have the memory play spring to life as Tom tortures it out of himself on a typewriter, anesthetized by booze. This may seem a minor distinction, but in the playing it's remarkably powerful. The conceit allows Patch Darragh, brilliant as Tom, to bring a booze-soaked toxicity to some of his line readings, and it allows some of the more charged exchanges between Tom and Amanda (Judith Ivey, superb) to play like black comedy. Bold choices also distinguish the play's other 2 performances - Keira Keely may over-emphasize the handicap, but she otherwise doesn't play Laura as a physical weakling: you can feel Laura's strength every time she walks across the stage in a broken but determined stride. Even Jim, Laura's "Gentleman Caller", feels freshly imagined thanks to a surprising, underplayed aloofness in Josh Charles' characterization.

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