News / Arts & Entertainment

Broadway Revives Tennessee Williams' 'Glass Menagerie'

Tony Award winner Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie." (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)
Tony Award winner Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie." (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)
Theater audiences first met the dysfunctional Wingfield family nearly 70 years ago in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

His tale of heartbreak and faded dreams, inspired partly by the playwright's own family dynamics, has resonated powerfully with audiences through the decades.

The latest revival of this classic is on Broadway, where audiences enter the Booth Theater to find a simple, but striking vision.

Onstage, there’s the scantest representation of a cramped apartment, but there are no walls, just a sofa, dining room table and a couple of other pieces of furniture, with a long tilted fire escape reaching upward. Other than that, everything’s black. The whole set seems to be floating in a void.  

"I want people who hate the theater to see it," said two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones, who plays Amanda, the iron-willed mother at the heart of The Glass Menagerie. "Because I really do think it’s one of those productions that could change people’s minds about the theater. This production takes people places they have never been before."
Director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" retells the classic tale of family, heartbreak and faded dreams. (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)Director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" retells the classic tale of family, heartbreak and faded dreams. (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)
When The Glass Menagerie debuted on Broadway in 1945, it established Williams as one of the greatest playwrights of his generation. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

But, of all his plays, The Glass Menagerie was both Williams’ most nakedly autobiographical and least naturalistic. His script calls for music and stage magic - characters appear out of thin air, as if conjured by Tom, the play’s narrator.  

Director John Tiffany says Williams was very clear in his stage directions and that The Glass Menagerie is impressionistic, a memory play.

"He begs us, as theater makers, not to go down the path of naturalism, not to have a real Frigidaire [refrigerator] and real ice cubes tinkling in a glass," Tiffany said. "For Tennessee, that wasn’t where theater was at its best. He said it’s a place of the imagination, where poetry, not just poetry of words, but poetry of gesture, poetry of design, poetry of lighting, poetry of acting, all comes together and meets above and between the audience and actors. And I really, really was taken by that."

Tiffany’s production is highly stylized with subtly-choreographed movement during the scene changes which are meant to complement the poetry of the text. Film and television star Zachary Quinto is making his Broadway debut as Tom, the stand-in for Tennessee Williams, whose given name really was Tom.

"For me, it is the language, it is the poetry, it is the distillation of his own life, his own experience and the people that he loved the most that are in this play," Quinto said.

Quinto read a lot of biographical material about Williams to prepare for the play, particularly about his complicated relationship with his mother and sister.

"Learning that dynamic and understanding that Tennessee spent his entire life both trying to capture something in his writing, but also trying to escape something in his writing, was something that informed me a great deal," Quinto said.

In the play, the father has abandoned his family. Tom, the young writer, works a dead-end job in a shoe factory, helping to support his determined mother, Amanda, and his sister, Laura, who’s both physically and emotionally disabled. She lives out a kind of fantasy life, tending to a collection of glass figurines; her glass menagerie. In real life, Williams’ sister, Rose, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, sent to a mental hospital and lobotomized, says Quinto.

"How tragically her life unfolded, is something that Tennessee never fully reconciled within himself or probably even forgave himself for, on some level," he said.

Jones says all the characters in The Glass Menagerie are in desperate straits, particularly her character, Amanda.

"Her son is about to fly away, never to seen or heard from again and she knows it," Jones said. "And her daughter is mentally completely stifled. She cannot move.  And so it’s like a parent with a severely challenged child, physically or mentally. 'What in the world is going to happen to that child when I’m gone?'"

Amanda encourages Tom to invite a friend to date his sister but, as so often happens in real life, hope turns into heartbreak.

The Glass Menagerie once again taps into the audience's emotions, as it has for 70 years.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."