BY TULIS McCALL
There are productions by which you can mark a moment in your life – the way you would treasure and recall an encounter with a loved one. This production will be that for anyone lucky enough to see it.
Although some will single out Cherry Jones as Amanda, I will not. So beautifully crafted is this production that there are no seams between any of the elements. The writing becomes three-dimensional. The actors disappear into the story. The visual elements entwine – the actors’ choreographed movements, the extraordinary set, lights, costumes and even music. This is one enormous chunk of life that will not be separated into parts.
As well, I believe, Mr. Tiffany understands that the center of this piece is Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). Not Tom (Zachary Quinto) or Amanda. Laura is the one around whom every character orbits. Her choice to stay locked in her life seems as though it is out of her control, but she holds her own against all comers, including her mother and her brother. On the other hand, when life hands her an offer of love, she makes a place for it on her dance card. Hers is an extraordinary spirit, and I have never seen it more apparent than in this production.
That this is so is a result of THE scene. You know the one. Where Laura spends time alone with Jim O’Connor, The Gentleman Caller (Brian J. Smith) who opens a doorway to a new life and then leaves her at the threshold hoping she will step through without him. It is a scene so intimate, tender and deep that the audience is lifted out of the theatre directly into Tennessee Williams Land. It is breathtaking.
Flanking both sides of this scene are extraordinary exchanges. Cherry Jones, although off to a confusing start with her opening reminiscences thrives in the long stretch. She is a big woman in voice and gesture who makes it clear that this Amanda is living a small life. Amanda bumps up against the ceilings and walls like Alice in Wonderland and appears surprised each time the facts loom up to greet her. The past as she knew it does not die – and her son is an acorn that falls not far from this tree – it is her own custom designed Gentleman Caller. Jones drifts in and out of this courtship with heartbreaking simplicity. A breaking heart needs no embroidery, and Jones lays hers on her sleeve for us to see and feel.
Zachary Quinto as Tom takes himself very seriously in his monologues but lightens up considerably in his scenes with Jones to the point where the two mine humor in their scenes that I have never seen before. They vacillate between rage and camaraderie because they are so close it pains them both. These scenes are gorgeous. As the Gentleman Caller, Smith arrives toting a Missouri accent strong enough to dance on, but he lets go of it soon enough so that THE scene becomes a pas de deux of extraordinary depth. The fact that high school has been the highlight of O’Connor’s life nips at his heels. His path is set and the future will be worth the effort, even if it means that he may settle for a love that is on the conventional side. Crossing paths with Laura throws him and his tender soul off kilter, and in righting his trajectory he breaks more than one heart in that theatre.
Which brings us to Keenan-Bolger. Hers is a Laura that is like a still pond covered with tiny sparking lights. This Laura is not a victim, even if she thinks she is. Her spirit keeps chugging like the heartbeat of a hawk. She may look as if she is idly riding an airstream, but this woman is never not watching for movement of any sort. This Laura puts the world on notice. She is watching. She is quiet, she is still, and she is here.
Which is why Laura is the one thing that Tom cannot leave behind. He may be his mother’s twin, but it is the heartbeat of his sister that is the music to which he dances.
Get to this brilliant, brilliant production. Just do it.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE – By Tennessee Williams; directed by John Tiffany; movement by Steven Hoggett; sets and costumes by Bob Crowley; lighting by Natasha Katz; production stage manager, Steven Zweigbaum; technical supervision by Hudson Theatrical Associates; general manager, Richards/Climan Inc.; associate producers, Golden + Gold, Yohei Darius Suyama, Greenleaf Productions, Maximilian Traber, Charles Reetz, Michael Crea and P J Miller. An American Repertory Theater production, presented by Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr., Jerry Frankel, Lou Spisto/Lucky VIII, Infinity Stages, Scott M. Delman, Jam Theatricals, Mauro Taylor, Rebecca Gold, Michael Palitz, Charles E. Stone, Will Trice and GFour Productions. At the Booth Theater, 222 West 45th Street, (800) 432-7250, telecharge.com. Through Jan. 5. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.