The Glass Menagerie: Go to the moon-and look for the missing couch!

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

Yesterday, I saw the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Sally Field and Joe Mantello. It was gripping, haunting, and not at all what I expected to see. The tickets were purchased before previews had started, so even after the reviews were out, I hadn’t read them. After leaving the theatre, it was off to Hell’s Kitchen for some drinks where looked up a few reviews for the first time. I couldn’t believe how many people didn’t like it! Many of the reviewers didn’t like the director Sam Gold’s take on the Tennessee Williams classic. Ben Brantley said:

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.

Certainly, everyone is welcome to their own opinions, and truth has been found in many a negative review for shows that I personally loved, and vice versa. This was different though. Where critics seemed to find the particular choices of this production restrictive and unfitting, for me, they revealed sides of the four characters that I’d never seen before. Laura’s pity party wasn’t necessarily unwarranted. Amanda’s over-protective nature had a stronger motive. Tom’s frustration with his own life was more complex.

Photo from The New York Times

Sure, there were things I missed. There was no tattered couch, which is such a signature element of most productions. A huge empty stage made the whole evening feel less cramped, so the characters didn’t seem trapped with one another. The was no glass menagerie. But I’ve seen A Midsummer Nights Dream without the forest, and photos of Show Boat where there was no boat. Even an unauthorized production of Bullets Over Broadway with no adult actors. Yep. All kids. So I can deal with no couch and no glass unicorns.

My takeaway is that it’s best to go to the theatre with a beginner’s mind, as Buddha would say. Be ready for anything, and see what you can get out of it, even if that turns out to be very little.