Sally Field's citric, unvarnished performance as Amanda Wingfield is so riveting you may find your focus pulled from the larger picture created by Sam Gold's shocking revival of The Glass Menagerie, which opened tonight at Broadway's Belasco Theatre. Stripped bare of the accoutrements of poverty Williams so carefully articulated in the notes for his 1945 "memory play," Gold (Fun Home) takes more seriously Williams' prefatory caution that "everyone should know nowadays the unimportance of the photographic in art: that truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest, in essence, only through transformation" free of the "exhausted theater of realistic conventions..."
THE GLASS MENAGERIE Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Glass Menagerie including the New York Times and More...
The sad St. Louis clan is back again, in a production starring Sally Field as its faded matriarch. This newest "Menagerie," helmed by director Sam Gold ("Fun Home") and now open at the Belasco Theatre, could not be more different from the one we last saw...Gold puts his stamp on "Menagerie" with both hyper-realistic elements and a minimalist set so barren it can only leave us to focus on the actors-the juxtaposition of styles makes this "Menagerie" as interesting as any I've seen.
Field's is an anxiety-ridden, squirm-inducing performance - as her Amanda clings to unrealistic dreams for her children's future, her desperate neediness is at once funny and sad, understandable yet painful to watch. As Tom, Mantello brings the play's often-coded undertones to the forefront, delivering a virtuoso portrayal of a frustrated, closeted man crushed under the weight of his mother's loving expectations. It's no surprise that these veterans would be so successful, but the revelation here is Ferris. As a wheelchair user, she brings an element of realism and independence to a character normally played as helpless - for the first time, she seems strong and capable, though still terribly shy and non-confrontational. The audience seems to hold its collective breath as she maneuvers around the stage, and when her gentleman caller (a boisterous Finn Wittrock, American Horror Story) gets her hopes up only to break her heart, she poignantly runs through the full range of emotion. It's a brilliant bit of casting, even if the age difference between the actors requires some mental gymnastics...Gold takes risks with his nontraditional staging choices, and though his vision might not be for everyone, there's no arguing that it's a bold, creative one. The rare revival that breathes new life into a classic rather than defaulting to convention, this Menagerie is well worth another look.
What if someone took Tennessee Williams at his word and pushed it to extremes? You would have Sam Gold's starkly compelling, bravely executed revival at the Belasco Theatre. By the standards of our downtown avant-garde-long influenced by Euro regietheater and the deconstructive antics of the Wooster Group-Gold's approach is familiar. It's the 3M Plan: minimal, metatheatrical, modern dress. Still, it's rare for a Broadway audience to face an iconic stage classic so radically and brutally "interrogated." For that reason alone, it is imperative that you see it.
Sam Gold is the latest to pick up the next-to-nothing-is-more approach to Tennessee Williams. The American director's "Glass Menagerie" opened Thursday at the Belasco Theatre, and it is pure Gold in every sense of the word. Has there ever been a barer stage on Broadway? The four actors enter from a side door on the orchestra level, with Sally Field pushing newcomer Madison Ferris in a wheelchair. What follows is one of the evening's many silent longueurs as Ferris, a woman with muscular dystrophy, negotiates the small staircase to the stage to take her place there. Occasionally, she walks by pushing her buttocks in the air and taking steps on her feet and hands. But for most of the production, this Laura sits on the floor or in the wheelchair. It's odd to begin a review by concentrating on an actor's physical challenges, but that first long ascent to the stage pretty much establishes Field's tortured Amanda Wingfield and, in essence, Gold's take on "The Glass Menagerie." It's a daring, masterful stroke, and one that redefines the Williams classic, and will influence every "Menagerie" to come in the next few years.
Surely, no star in the history of Broadway has made a more inauspicious entrance than Sally Field's first appearance as poor Amanda Wingfield in director Sam Gold's starkly unforgiving, mostly unafraid and surely unforgettable revival of "The Glass Menagerie," a production that scrambles the politics and poetics of the presumed fragile Tennessee Williams' fever dream by conceiving of a Laura whose disability is not slight, not in her own head, and not merely a symbolic manifestation of debilitating fraternal or maternal expectation...There will be some who argue that Gold's production fundamentally alters Williams' play.
"I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion," says Tom Wingfield, the thinly veiled stand-in for playwright Tennessee Williams in the opening monologue of his semi-autobiographical memory play, The Glass Menagerie. In a bold experiment that's often riveting but seldom wholly satisfying, director Sam Gold rips away illusion like a bandage off a wound - along with other signatures of the playwright such as poetry, magic, artifice - in a forensic examination that fights against the text just as Tom clashes in his love-hate relationship with his domineering mother, Amanda. Despite some fine work from the actors, you end up being moved more by the sheer resilience of the writing than by the intrusive presentation.
Every immaculately crafted moment of Sam Gold's staging of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie rings as clear as it does true. There is no reason to close your eyes, but you could, and the actors' beautiful enunciation and encapsulation of Williams's words would be as pleasurable as the best radio play...When characters are not in scenes directly they observe them or sit a little away from them. The psychologically astute implication is that they are present in spirit, or will be affected by whatever is unfolding. This is Williams as seen at his most pared-back. The comedy, and there is much-Field revels in her baiting as much as Mantello in his curdling distaste for her-is hearty rather than camp, like bitter but delectable dregs of cold coffee.
If it's more of an inquest than a definitive statement, it's an inquest at a very high level; Sally Field, who plays Amanda, does not appear in basement black-box theaters. So Gold is performing a tricky balancing act: narrowing the scope of the representation and maintaining his cutting-edge cred while selling the story to an audience of 1,000. One of the casualties of this approach is what Tom calls "the social background" of the play. We lose not just the particular St. Louisness of it (the accents are nearly nil) but also the world-on-edge tension that Tom describes at the start: Guernica exploding in Europe, and, in America, "the fiery braille alphabet of a dissolving economy." Instead Gold focuses on a novel and largely convincing interpretation of the family's warfare as a symptom of the powerful but constraining love they share, and on the way both things shape Tom's character deep into the future from which he narrates.
Throughout, the production swirls realistic gestures with more expressionist ones. The theatricality is self-conscious, at times self-congratulatory. It estranges spectators from the characters and the situations - in ways more and less productive - yet still allows much of the language to be heard clearly and anew. (Gold's staging is often at odds with the script, but he only rarely has his actors play against the lines themselves.) As the play continues, it marshals a stealthy emotional force, designed to make Tom's departure that much more wrenching. Field portrays Amanda with sympathy and genteel bluster. In some scenes she and Mantello's sardonic Tom have a teasing rapport. This Laura's real physical impairment deepens and complicates her relationship with Tom, although as Ferris is far younger and less practiced than her castmates, the production asks her body to do too much of the work of the role.
That shattering sound you hear coming from the Belasco Theater is the celebrated director Sam Gold taking a hammer to everything that's delicate in "The Glass Menagerie." The jagged, glistening shards of Tennessee Williams's breakthrough play are available for inspection in the revival that opened on Thursday night. Don't expect these pieces to be reassembled into an illuminating portrait of the anguished Wingfield family from this 1944 drama. Mr. Gold and his cast, led by an intrepid Sally Field, have dismantled a venerable classic, but darned if they can figure out how to put it back together again...On occasion, Mr. Gold's interpretation takes on the vicious aspect of a nightmare in which you see your past at its distorted worst. But even that vision is not sustained. When a plot turn plunges the theater into abject darkness late in the play, it only gives literal life to what you've been feeling all along.
Revisionist reboots of modern classics can open your eyes - or make them glaze over. Broadway's stark, stripped-back new take on "The Glass Menagerie" starring Sally Field lands, alas, in the latter category. Tennessee Williams' 1945 masterwork has never emerged smaller, flatter or less poignant. Or soggier, thanks to a downpour inside the home where the story unfolds. Yes, that happens.
Ultimately, in this production, the woes of the Wingfield family take second place to the experience of watching the bravery and determination of a young actress, and perhaps to ponder the wider difficulty people with disabilities have in being cast - even to play people with disabilities.
The winning streak of Sam Gold, who has become one of the most prominent directors in recent years ("Fun Home," the plays of Annie Baker), comes to a screeching halt with a misconceived Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' 1944 breakout drama "The Glass Menagerie," led by Sally Field...Gold, who apparently wanted to remove all artifice or period flavor, uses a bare, exposed-looking theater space, with just a metal table and a shelf of props. Stage lighting is avoided. No southern accents are used and the actors wear contemporary attire. Even the intermission has been removed. This all results is a painfully self-aware production that is devoid of Williams' trademark lyricism.
...what Gold has devised is quite confounding. Part of the problem is that his directorial decisions are so radical in some cases they take the audience out of the play's poetic reverie. The decision to cast a young disabled actress to play the painfully shy Laura puts the emphasis on the character's physical handicap, when in fact it's Laura's extreme insecurities that make her life tragic. And the play's text refers to her "walking," but that makes no sense as presented here.