10:13 

THE GLASS MENAGERIE, reviews

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www.playbill.com/news/article/105161-PHOTO-CALL...

PHOTO CALL: A Minneapolis Menagerie

By Greg Kalafatas
24 Jan 2007

Tony Award winner Harriet Harris and Randy Harrison star in the Guthrie Theater's production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, which officially opens Jan. 26.

Joe Dowling directs the production, which features Harris — a Guthrie company member in the '80s — as Amanda Wingfield and Harrison as Young Tom Wingfield. The company also includes Jonas Goslow as Jim O'Connor, Tracey Maloney as Laura Wingfield and Bill McCallum as Older Tom Wingfield. The limited engagement will play through March 25 on the Guthrie's McGuire Proscenium Stage.

Here's a look at the new production:








*******
www.variety.com/review/VE1117932791?refCatId=33

OnStage: 'Menagerie' mother superior
Harriet Harris, playing desperate, determined mother Amanda Wingfield
in "Glass Menagerie," hopes to ace a legendary character.

By Rohan Preston, Star Tribune




'The Glass Menagerie'

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

THE GLASS MENAGERIE

What: By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Joe Dowling.

When: 7:30 p.m. today-Sat., 1 p.m. Sun., 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., with
matinees on select Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Ends March 25.

Where: Guthrie's McGuire Proscenium stage, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.

Tickets: $22-$52. 612-377-2224.

Web: www.guthrietheater.org.

Special event: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, Director Joe Dowling will lead a
conversation with "Menagerie" star Harriet Harris at the Guthrie.$15.
OnStage

OnStage: 'Menagerie' mother superior



A stage portrait skillfully painted
The role of Amanda Wingfield, the fallen southern belle who tries to
maintain a sense of gentility under indigent circumstances in "The
Glass Menagerie," has been played by many notable actors, including
Jessica Tandy and Laurette Taylor onstage and Katharine Hepburn on film.

But there has not yet been a definitive performance, to hear Harriet
Harris tell it. Not until she walks the boards tonight at the Guthrie,
where the play opens.

Harris, best known for playing acerbic talent agent Bebe Glazer on
TV's "Frasier" and for depicting the mysterious sister of nosy murder
victim Martha on "Desperate Housewives," is taking up the raiments and
condition of someone the playwright, Tennessee Williams, described as
having "endurance and a kind of heroism." In this memory play set in
St. Louis, she seems unbowed by Depression-era circumstances that
crush others.

The role is one Harris has been dreaming about since age 13. In fact,
the play prompted the Texas native to become an actor.

"I read it at that impressionable age and knew that there was nothing
else for me -- nothing," she said after a recent rehearsal. "I was at
an age when I was trying to detach [from my mother] and I wondered if
I could survive on my own or as a galaxy of my mother."

If doing "Menagerie" notches a life goal for Harris, it also helps
explain why this Tony-winning performer who lives in Southern
California would spend winter in Minnesota.

Hers has been a career of success on both stage and screen, playing
dramatic roles and comic ones. A versatile performer, Harris received
her formal training at Juilliard, an august institution, no doubt, but
not one known for producing funny men and women.

"People think of Juilliard as a place for drama, but there are many
comedic talents that have come out of the school -- Robin Williams,
Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline," she said.

Guthrie credits

In the mid-1980s, Harris was a member of the Guthrie acting company
for a season, playing Elmire in "Tartuffe" and Titania in "A Midsummer
Night's Dream." While she went on to do some movies and a lot of
television, Harris never gave up the stage. She won her Tony for
playing a Chinese-accented procurer of white slaves in "Thoroughly
Modern Millie."

For her "Millie" role, that of Mrs. Meers, she used the most horrid
Chinese accent -- one so bad that two of the Asian-extracted members
of the cast said it was good. And that was her point.

"You don't have real villains anymore," Harris said. "Villains are
just too nice, but villains need to be evil. You need to know why you
dislike them."

Amanda is a sort of departure for Harris. She fits readily into the
canon of Williams' fallen southern belles. Deserted by her husband,
she sells magazine subscriptions in order to raise her two children --
Tom, an aspiring poet who seeks escape in his imagination, and Laura,
her crippled daughter for whom she wants to find a good husband.
Theirs is a life of extreme privation. Amanda tries to keep it all
together.

"This sсript is like a map of Paris," she said. "It keeps looping
around the central thing that happened, always coming back."

Harris' insights into her character, and her readiness to try new
things in rehearsal to find the right tones, have impressed director
Joe Dowling.

"She's able to find the most immediate detail in every line -- it's
wonderful to watch it because she brings incredible acting instincts
to the part," he said.

"I have rarely worked with a performer whose instinct is so well-tuned
to her character, moment by moment, that she can so easily create a
total sense of the reality of who this person is."

Dowling joked that he's glad that Williams is not around to pop in on
rehearsals. The playwright would be surprised. Dowling and his Guthrie
team chose to have two actors play Tom Wingfield. "Queer as Folk" star
Randy Harrison was cast as the younger Tom, with Guthrie regular Bill
McCallum playing the older Tom. Tracey Maloney, in what could be a
Guthrie break-out, is Laura.

"Amanda is not a mother who has the luxury of self-pity or feeling
sorry for herself or any of that stuff," said Harris. "She has to
forge on for her family. She's like so many mothers today: Put your
shoulder to the grindstone and go."

*******

www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/entertainment...

Sitcom sideshow makes for fragile 'Glass Menagerie'
BY DOMINIC P. PAPATOLA
Theater Critic
The play is an iconic one and so is its opening image: a flicker of
light as Tom Wingfield fires up a cigarette before launching into the
sad, gauzy remembrances of his mother, his sister and her glass
menagerie.

That scene is canted in the new Guthrie Theater production. Rather
than having Tom represent playwright Tennessee Williams, he
effectively becomes Williams, complete with swishing hand gestures,
melodramatic brow-wipes and arch, enhanced Southern accent.

We'll see another Tom in a minute, when actor Randy Harrison enters
the stage to spar with the controlling Amanda and kid-glove the
crippled Laura. But the play is bracketed by a different actor, Bill
McCallum, working like hell to justify the obtrusive presence of a
middle-aged, nattily dressed queen who's been thrust into
narrating "The Glass Menagerie."

It's not a particularly enlightened choice by director Joe Dowling:
We learned in high school that the play is semi-autobiographical and
that the writer born Thomas Lanier Williams was gay. Nor is it
especially informative: Though it explains where Tom was really going
all those nights he was out "to the movies," it doesn't shed much
insight into the passel of demons with which the character wrestles.

Dowling makes other unconventional choices. Instead of an all-out war
between Amanda and Tom, he presents us with a richer, more
complicated family dynamic. By incorporating the gently clasped hand
here, the wryly understanding half-smile there, he allows a genuine
affection between Tom and Amanda that makes Tom's ultimate decision
to abandon his family seem all the more poignant.

Harrison carries this burden with aplomb, positioning young Tom as a
restless kid at once resigned to and resentful of the
responsibilities that have been thrust upon him.

Laura is somewhat de-emphasized in this scenario — she's no longer
the only bit of glue holding the family together — but Tracey Maloney
still affects a presence that haunts, from her chest-heaving attacks
of nervousness to her heartbreakingly moist-eyed smile when Laura
receives her first — and most probably only — kiss from a gentleman
caller.

Working in perilous counterpoint, though, is Dowling's choice to play
up the ironic side of Williams' sсript for comic effect. Harriet
Harris' Amanda is the most complicit in this decision. With her
cackly voice and her ability to cock an eyebrow or cast a glance just
so, she can twist a line just enough to lever laughter from the
audience. The Gentleman Caller is a catalyst in the play, but in this
staging, Jonas Goslow's dandelion-wine-swigging Jim O'Connor is more
of a lightweight.

Allowing some levity into the proceedings is fine, but the play's
emotional gut-punch is lost if the cast can't reel the audience back
in with the play's aching final moments. It worked on Friday's
opening night, as the set pieces and the characters slowly parted and
withdrew into darkness as the shattered Laura blew out her candles.

But there will be nights when cast and audience won't be able to
recover from their collective foray into sitcom and will stumble on
the tricky path trod by this staging of "The Glass Menagerie."

Theater critic Dominic P. Papatola can be reached at
dpapatola@... or at 651-228-2165. IF YOU GO

What: "The Glass Menagerie"

When: Through March 25

Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Mpls.

Tickets: $42-$27

Information: 612-377-2224

Capsule: This two-Toming staging trods a tricky path.

*******

www.variety.com/review/VE1117932791?refCatId=33

Posted: Tue., Feb. 13, 2007, 11:35am PT
Regional
The Glass Menagerie
(McGuire Proscenium Stage, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis; 700 seats; $52 top)
By Quinton Skinner

Tracey Maloney, left, Harriet Harris and Randy Harrison star in the Guthrie Theater's reprise of Tennessee Williams' ``The Glass Menagerie.''
MINNEAPOLIS A Guthrie Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Joe Dowling.
Amanda Wingfield - Harriet Harris Tom Wingfield - Randy Harrison, Bill McCallum Laura Wingfield - Tracey Maloney Jim O'Connor - Jonas Goslow
Tennessee Williams' claustrophobic terrain in "The Glass Menagerie" is familiar turf by now, and it's difficult to imagine a take on the work capable of widening an audience's eyes. Yet the Guthrie stages the play with uncommon freshness and winning vigor in a production that captures Williams' bleak poetry while offering unexpected new possibilities. Director Joe Dowling also introduces a radical new concept in the casting of Tom.
The plot is iconic: Long abandoned by her husband, Amanda Wingfield (Harriet Harris) lives with her children in a run-down apartment, where she prattles on about her Southern belle past and frets for her psychologically stunted, fear-driven daughter Laura (Tracey Maloney). Son Tom (Randy Harrison) supports the women by working a dead-end job, all the while disappearing at night and generally seething with frustration and futility.
Dowling extracts precise and soulful performances from his cast. Maloney's only flaw is being too lovely for the part of the ostensibly homely Laura, though she compensates with a timid, eager-to-please girlishness and painful vulnerability.
Harris throws out all manner of unexpected angles, leavening Amanda's typical brittle anxiety with textures of brashness and assured humor that provide welcome warmth to family scenes typically experienced as undiluted discomfort.
Harrison plays young Tom with an appropriate mix of yearning and frustration, transparently wanting nothing more than to do right in an impossible situation.
It's with the knowledge that the narrative is heading toward a dead end that Dowling makes an innovative choice: splitting the part of Tom into two, with Bill McCallum handling the monologue aspects of the sсript spoken by the older version of the character. McCallum channels Williams himself, and while the gambit might have been labored or trite in lesser hands, here it's a revelation. The actor lends weary gravity to the memory sections of the narrative, while Harrison is freed to devote his energies entirely to portraying the character as a troubled youth.
The test of Dowling's strategy is whether its seams are visible from the audience. They are not; in fact, one easily imagines Williams writing his sсript with such a staging in mind. Finally, McCallum takes one tortured look back at the lost ruins of his past as Maloney's Laura slides silently into the void on Richard Hoover's bold set (seedy realism in the apartment, twisted steel and busted neon all around).
A mix of the familiar and the new, Dowling's staging of this frequently revived play, appropriately turns out to be the best production to date in the first season of the new Guthrie.
Sets, Richard Hoover; costumes, Ann Hould-Ward; lighting, Jane Cox; sound, Scott W. Edwards; production stage manager, Chris A. Code. Opened Jan. 20, 2007. Reviewed Jan. 26. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

*******

citypages.com/databank/28/1365/article15109.asp

Spotlight: The Glass Menagerie

by Quinton Skinner
January 31, 2007

For those who slept through high school English: The Glass Menagerie
depicts the Wingfields, who have fallen on hard times more than a
decade after being abandoned by the family patriarch. Mother Amanda
(Harriet Harris) sells magazine subscriptions over the phone and
prattles on annoyingly about her genteel Southern upbringing. Sister
Laura (Tracey Maloney) is a child in a woman's body, unable to do
much of anything but withdraw into a fantasy world of glass
figurines. Brother Tom (Randy Harrison) works at a menial job, gets
up to no good at night, and seems on the verge of some spectacular
personal meltdown. Joe Dowling gets tight yet energetic performances
from the core of his cast in this vibrant and accomplished Guthrie
production. Maloney's Laura is a standout, transparently terrified of
every moment of life. Harris is the linchpin of the operation,
though, and she responds by lending Amanda both a fire and sort of
demented charm. This characterization vivifies a role typically
played as shrill and brittle (she also gives us some of that, mind
you, as there's no way around it). Williams tightens the screws
ruthlessly, and the second act sees the arrival of Jim (Jonas
Goslow), here even shallower and more galactically clueless than one
remembers. Dowling splits the part of Tom between Harrison and Bill
McCallum, the latter tackling the older Tom's soliloquies with
bittersweet humor. The tactic is most effective when Harrison and
McCallum share the same space onstage, their dialogue overlapping.
This show manages to capture the bleak poetry of Williams's dialogue
while wringing humor from it. Though in a couple of instances the
jokiness may be a little too broad, hints of levity are welcome in
this train-wreck take on family life. More willing to confront the
ugliness is set designer Richard Hoover: His ugly, cramped apartment
is ringed by malfunctioning neon signs and swaths of corroded metal,
the Wingfield's rot writ obvious until the end, when it all slides
silently into the darkness.

*******

www.bostonsplash.com/

The Glass Menagerie Shines Once More at the Guthrie

By Keisha7


The strike of a match in complete darkness lights a cigarette.

A spotlight slowly fades up on Narrator, Tom Wingfield, age thirty-
five, standing on a bare stage. His monologue paints a portrait of
the hard times in which this "memory" will take place. Wooden
skeletons of buildings, fire escapes of metal and neon signs shining
pink, fly in weightless from the rafters. Thus begins the Guthrie
Theater's latest production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass
Menagerie."


Widely regarded as one of Williams' most autobiographical works, "The
Glass Menagerie" is the tale of The Wingfield Family. Amanda
Wingfield, played by Harriet Harris, is a dignified Southern Belle
who has found herself up north, left by her husband 16 years prior,
with her glory days of cotillions and handsome gentlemen callers well
behind her. But that doesn't stop her from talking about it
incessantly.

Tom, played by Randy Harrison, is the restless son who has become the
reluctant breadwinner for his family, even though all he wants to do
is follow in his father's footsteps and run off to find adventure or
possibly become a writer. Laura, played by Tracey Maloney, is the
strikingly shy daughter who spends all her time listening to old
records and polishing her glass animals, because the very thought of
socializing or working makes her violently ill.

In this particular winter, Amanda learns that her daughter has
skipped out on typing school because "it gives her indigestion."
Since learning a vocation is a hopeless option for Laura, Amanda
embarks on the next logical step: to find her daughter a husband. She
harasses Tom into asking a friend from the warehouse over for dinner.
And it is this unwitting "gentleman caller" who suddenly becomes the
potential answer to the entire family's prayers.


Director Joe Dowling's interpretation of the Tennessee Williams
classic makes an interesting choice that is sure to have purists of
the play up in arms. Dowling divides the role of the son Tom, into
two parts. Tom is both the Narrator (Bill McCallum) that guides the
audience through this memory and Young Tom himself (Harrison) within
the memory. Someone who saw the play the same night as me actually
said that "Tennessee Williams would roll over in his grave. Ok, maybe
not, but he would certainly sit up."

However, as a storytelling device, it does works. Tom the Narrator
preserves the illusion of the memory by being the only person to
break the fourth wall. Moreover, it is an opportunity for the
audience to see how Tom feels about what he did in his youth. It was
wonderful to watch this character remember how hot his temper ran,
and feel again his profound pity for his crippled sister and witness
his persistent disdain for his mother. At the very least, splitting
the character in two provides a fine example of how compelling an
actor can be just in presence, without the luxury of actual dialogue.

Harriet Harris' Amanda is amazing with the constantly nagging and
shaming and manipulating of her adult children. She needles Tom
to "sit up straight", "don't drink too much", "Chew, chew!" For the
better part of play, you want to strangle her for Tom. Just when the
character becomes most irritating, Harris makes us believe it is all
a manifestation of a desperate mother's love.

Randy Harrison's Tom has the good fortune to be the only character in
the play that will actually challenge Amanda. Their scene work is
remarkable. Together they create a mother-son relationship that is
such a train wreck, peppered with animosity and ridicule, that you
just can't look away. On contrast, during the middle of Act One, the
two characters find themselves in a silent war of wills, in which Tom
allows his mother to win by being the first to apologize. And for a
brief moment, the audience sees the love that has been lost between
them.

Williams anoints Jim, the Gentleman Caller, as the play's "symbol of
what could be". As such, this production's Jim is a walking, talking
platitude, cheerfully repeating phrases someone else told him to say
and still trying to convince himself as he repeats them. Jim was a
welcomed dose of comic relief in a play filled with tension. Jonas
Goslow portrays Jim as a cross between the junior varsity jock and a
love-hungry puppy. His scene work with Maloney in slowly bringing
Laura out of her shell is truly well paced and well acted by both.

And after the wonderful mood set by the lights and music were over...
After the great acting that had me rooting for a different character
each scene... Once the play was done, my prevailing feeling was: It
made me feel uncomfortable. But I count that as another success of
the production.

Despite the many laugh-out-loud moments in the show, "The Glass
Menagerie" is a story of family dysfunction that does not have a
happy ending. The play serves as a timeless reminder that it's not
that uncommon to wake up one morning and find that your family, your
friends, your life have nailed you into a "two by four situation". So
be careful to whom and for what you compromise your identity. Because
what you should do for love and what you must do for self-
preservation are often polar opposites.

"The Glass Menagerie" runs Tuesday through Sunday, January 20 - March
25, 2007, at The Guthrie Theater's McGuire Proscenium Stage, 818
South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415

Call Box office for showtimes and ticket availability. 612-377-2224

www.guthrietheater.org

*******

Rochester, MN. Post Bulletin

Local Entertainment
Review -- The 'Glass' is full of missed opportunities
2/15/2007 8:26:57 AM
By Jay Furst

The Post-Bulletin

Tennessee Williams might have this to say, paraphrasing himself,
about the Guthrie Theater's new production of his first
masterpiece, "The Glass Menagerie": "No playwright can do worse than
to put himself at the mercy of a misguided director."

There are qualities to admire in the Guthrie staging, directed by
artistic director Joe Dowling, but the casting and performances are
uneven, and Dowling's notion of splitting the role of Tom Wingfield
into two parts, one as young actor and one as a jaded, dissipated
narrator, is a calculated gamble that doesn't pay off.

The show opened in the Guthrie's new proscenium theater in late
January and continues through March 25.

For showtimes and ticket information, call toll-free 1-877-44STAGE or
go online to www.guthrietheater.org.

The play premiered in 1944 and lays the groundwork for just about
everything Williams would later write -- the richness of his poetic
language, the Southern themes, the power of alcohol, the illusion of
beauty and lust, the bitterness of memory -- it's all there to be
explored again and again in his later, greater plays.

Harriet Harris is mesmerizing as Amanda Wingfield, the faded and
slightly daft Southern beauty who was abandoned by her husband and
now tries to hold her family together in diminished circumstances.

Though better-known for her role on TV's "Desperate Housewives,"
Harris is a Tony Award-winning actress who was a member of the
Guthrie company in the mid-1980s, and she beautifully conveys the
grandiose and suffocating sadness of Amanda.

Randy Harrison, star of "Queer as Folk," is effective as Tom, her
son, who works in a warehouse to pay the family's rent but longs to
see the world and write great poetry.

The other three actors in this ensemble cast -- Jonas Goslow, who
plays Jim, the much-anticipated "gentleman caller," Tracey Maloney as
Tom's dysfunctionally shy sister Laura and Bill McCallum as the
unscripted narrator -- fail to make much of an impression. Maloney is
simply too remote and inward-turned as Laura to really engage the
audience.

There are many effective moments, including the final one, where the
fine scenery designed by Richard Hoover pulls apart, the narrator
expresses his regrets for abandoning his sister and Laura blows out
her candles. But generally, the wistfulness at the end is more for
missed opportunities in this staging.

*******

www.mndaily.com/articles/2007/02/01/70544


February 1, 2007

Walking on broken glass
The Guthrie presents Tennessee Williams' Depression-era play 'The
Glass Menagerie'

By Haily Gostas


Before he mastered the art of the Southern Gothic storytelling style
and penned Pulitzer Prize-winning greats like "A Streetcar Named
Desire" and "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," legendary American playwright
Tennessee Williams tested the waters with 1944's "The Glass
Menagerie," an uncompromisingly candid (but arguably amateur in
comparison) portrait of a fragile Depression-era family. "The Glass
Menagerie"

After his first play, a fluffy comedy about two sailors looking for
love, sank without much success, he found inspiration in the newer,
more expressionistic forms infiltrating American writing at that
time. To Williams, the fusion of tragi-romantic poetics with
unabashed naturalism was the only right way to weave the Wingfield's
story, currently being retold at the Guthrie Theater .

Professors and playwrights regard the show as classic, and there is
no denying the themes of single parenting and economic crises as
unfortunately prevalent to modern times. Still, it is easy for the
common theater-going public to view "The Glass Menagerie" as outdated
in its depictions of the social and political landscapes of old.

Plus, Williams' early works seem doomed to exist in the shadows of
what was to come.

Director Joe Dowling conveys a difficult project as best as possible,
despite the play having been performed three times prior at the
Guthrie alone. The result is a mild-mannered but faithful rendition,
saved especially by its excellent acting.

Dowling daringly chose to split the role of Tom, the haunted
Wingfield brother and son, between two separate actors. An older,
more detached version (Bill McCallum) serves as somewhat of an
unorthodox narrator, unfolding the action from the first scene
onward, yet reinforcing that he is simply recounting a memory of what
once was.

Set in 1930s St. Louis, "The Glass Menagerie" follows the determined
but suffocating matriarch Amanda (Harriet Harris), desperately trying
to provide for the future of her family after her husband's
abandonment 16 years prior, and in the midst of World War II's
financial uncertainty.

The younger of the two Toms (Randy Harrison) reluctantly assumes a
warehouse job and becomes a budding alcoholic when his obligation as
breadwinner to his mother and sister suppresses his sense of
adventure and dreams of becoming a poet. His little sister Laura
(Tracey Maloney) is a kind beauty burdened by a slight limp that has
made her painfully shy and obsessively nervous. Her only solace is
the collection of glass animals she lovingly keeps, and the retreat
into private, childlike worlds it allows her.

Worried her daughter will become an old maid (and doggedly fueled by
her own desires and disappointments), the meddling Amanda puts
perhaps too much faith in Laura's lone "gentleman caller," as the
arrival of the dopey but charming ex-high school hero Jim O'Connor
(Jonas Goslow) could be the final factor that makes or breaks them
all.

Though all the actors possess an impressive understanding of their
characters, the Tony Award-winning Harris carries the show. She does
an unflinchingly powerful job tackling the role of aging Southern
belle Amanda, who could easily fall victim to a shrill, selfish
interpretation. Harris gives her plenty of heart and humanity - a
mother who above all else wishes happiness for her children but who
realizes she, like the glass menagerie, is not eternally untouchable
and can shatter under the cruel realities of her time period.

"The Glass Menagerie" was - and is - good but not great. In
retrospect, you can see the seeds of true greatness Williams would go
on to sew. Even in its 63-year-old status it remains a very young,
somewhat unpolished work entirely dependent on the interpretations of
its continuing productions.

Still, the attempt is there, and the effort and energy from a well-
rounded cast and crew like the Guthrie's are what keeps "The Glass
Menagerie" timely and timeless.

*******

steveonbroadway.blogspot.com/2007/02/glass-mena...

The Glass Menagerie (The SOB Review)

The Glass Menagerie (The SOB Review) - McGuire Proscenium Stage, Guthrie, Minneapolis, MN


***1/2 (out of ****)

No doubt, purists will lament that director Joe Dowling has taken too many liberties with Tennessee Williams' classic play The Glass Menagerie, which is currently playing a Guthrie stage. Given the play's semi-autobiographical depiction of Williams' own emancipation from the clutches of his mother, protestations over Dowling's artistic freedom may be a bit ironic.

For those who hold the original stagings of Williams' works sacrosanct, the most egregious element of this production may be found in Dowling's decision to split the Williamsesque Tom Wingfield in two. Randy Harrison portrays the younger Tom, while Bill McCallum takes on the older one. The latter not only serves as narrator, but essentially becomes a specter looking upon the proceedings much like the portrait of his long-deserted father hanging on the Wingfields' living room wall.

But if there's an actual force that lingers, even when she's not on the stage, it is Harriet Harris as Tom's manic mother Amanda. Given that Williams once sardonically referred to his mother as "a little Prussian officer in drag,” it takes a volcanic performance to make every seismic shift one to be feared. Harris erupts with a volatile mix of authentic neurosis and delusional charm to make you believe she understands the archetype Williams intended perfectly. An actor's actor if ever there was one, Harris masters this role with clarity and precision, even when she's not speaking a word. Hers is one of the best performances of the year.

There are other winning performances. Tracey Maloney imbues "crippled" daughter Laura with a haunting luminescence that shines as brilliantly as the light through one of her beloved glass figurines, particularly when she's caught up in the possibility that her love for Jim O'Connor might actually be reciprocated.

As the tender Jim, stunningly bereft of self-awareness, Jonas Goslow is a revelation. Once the ever-popular high school boy who could do no wrong, Jim now struggles to rebuild his sense of affable confidence after losing his way for reasons never enunciated. I've previously seen Goslow in Guthrie productions of The Real Thing and Hamlet, but this is the first time I've seen him so genuine and vulnerable.

For his part, McCallum offers a poignant take as the elder Tom that hints at the air of sophistication to come for this erstwhile "Shakespeare." Then there's Harrison's portrayal of the younger Tom. Often trying to find the appropriate voice for Tom, Harrison is all over the map -- literally. While Williams places this drama in St. Louis, Harrison's forced accent alternately sounds like it's from the Deep South or New England, with hints of New Orleans thrown in for good measure. Still, Harrison ably handles this pivotal role reasonably well, particularly in going toe-to-toe with Amanda.

There is much to recommend in Dowling's insightful, respectful and surprisingly entertaining production, and near as I can figure, none of Williams' beautifully poetic language has been altered. Certainly, sticklers may not approve of Dowling's dramatic tinkerings, but they've made for a very chilling evening that actually illuminate the darkest parts of Williams' soul. To me, that's the mark of a great production.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

*******

Theater review: 'Glass Menagerie' has strong cast, but playwright would be spinning
The actors are smooth and skillful, but you are left to divine how the play is meaningful today.
By Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
Last update: January 27, 2007 – 10:14 PM

THE GLASS MENAGERIE
What: By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Joe Dowling.
When: 1 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday with matinees on select Wednesdays and Saturdays. Ends March 25.
Where: Guthrie's McGuire Proscenium stage, 818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis. Tickets: $22-$52. 612-377-2224.
Web: www.guthrietheater.org.
Special event:At 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, Dowling will lead a conversation with "Menagerie" star Harriet Harris at the Guthrie. $15.
Tennessee Williams should be rolling over in his grave just about now.
Guthrie Theater Director Joe Dowling has staged, and his cast has delivered, a production of "The Glass Menagerie" that is, for better and worse, unlike productions past.
This "Menagerie," which opened Friday on the theater's McGuire Proscenium stage, is smooth and skillfully acted, with an especially terrific performance by Harriet Harris as anxious, determined matriarch Amanda Wingfield.
It is just that this production, which maximizes the humor in an otherwise droll, downer of a sсript, splits one character, Tom, into two roles, the play's narrator and Amanda Wingfield's son. It works well enough, although it seems unnecessary, especially since Bill McCallum, the mustachioed actor who play the narrator, bears a resemblance to playwright Williams.
This production left me feeling impressed by its artistry, including the fact that Richard Hoover's industrial set materializes at the opening and dematerializes at the end of this memory play.
But I was left pondering, how does this play, first performed in 1944, speak to audiences today?
The Wingfield family is stuck in a deep rut. The father, "a telephone man in love with long distance," abandoned his wife, Amanda (Harris) and their children Tom (Randy Harrison) and Laura (Tracey Maloney) 16 years ago. That leave-taking was so traumatic, it pauperized the family, warping them. So they live in their heads, with Tom writing poetry, Amanda reminiscing about past suitors and Laura taking meticulous care of her glass animals.
Tom, who stepped in to help support the abandoned family, is now considering leaving in order to escape his overbearing mother and his physically disabled sister who has never had a date. But before he leaves, he has arranged for a gentleman caller, Jim O'Connor, to visit his sister. Laura's first date is a former schoolmate who peaked in high school and now works at the factory with Tom.
Amanda goes all out in trying to impress Jim, but he seems to betray her efforts.
There's a lot of talking in "Menagerie," which lighting designer Jane Cox has illuminated fairly sharply. But there's not much action.
Today, editors on TV are able to make reality programs out of such situations, but in the theater we want to tell Tom and Amanda and Laura to get up and go. Break out of the rut. Get on with your lives.
What I love about Williams is that there is always something that remains unspoken that needs to be blurted out. His works mine the anomie and terror just below the surface of polite society.
Of course, one can read too much biography into his work. And I'm not an advocate of such an approach. I might argue with splitting of the role of Tom, but I wouldn't argue with the performances.
As Amanda, Harris is a sharp-tongued, wily and ever-inventive mother who lives in the past as protection against her present. Harris embodies, in her faded clothes and aging frame, Amanda's history and hopes. Her gloss on Amanda is entirely credible.
With her limp and shyness, Maloney does a wonderful job as Laura. Harrison is a bit combustible, but he does not overact. He and Jonas Goslow, as O'Connor, round out a fine cast.
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 • rpreston@startribune.com


@темы: 2007, theatre

   

Randy Harrison. Interviews.

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