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The Family Ties That Bind: ‘The Glass Menagerie’

March 10th, 2017 Comments off
Sally Field and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

I have no doubt that Sam Gold’s stark, contemporary interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ masterwork, The Glass Menagerie, will polarize audiences and critics alike. The current Broadway revival, which opened last night at the Belasco Theatre, is a muscular, often anachronistic work. “The play is memory,” says the son, Tom (Joe Mantello), “Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.” If you believe those words at face value, as I did, you will discover a production that bristles with familial uncomfortability. That pushes your boundaries beyond the suspension of disbelief. And that, ultimately, breaks your heart as the ties that bind unravel before your eyes.

Set in an alley in St. Louis, “Now and in the Past,” The Glass Menagerie reveals the layered dysfunction in the Wingfield household, helmed by matriarch Amanda (Sally Field) and her two children, Tom (Joe Mantello) and Laura (Madison Ferris). A gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor (Finn Wittrock) later appears, but it is the unseen fifth character of the father, “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances,” who looms over the proceedings like an emotional grim reaper.

Madison Ferris, Sally Field, and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie.' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Madison Ferris, Sally Field, and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Williams’ construct is quite simple, really. During the day, Tom is trapped in a warehouse job at Continental Shoemakers while his wanderlust slowly simmers away. At home, his recluse sister plays with her glass menagerie as his mother tries to pine and manipulate her way toward an idealistic vision for a charmed life for herself and her two wayward adult children. When Tom invites his colleague, Jim, home for dinner, Amanda sets a social entrapment in the hopes that the young man will find Laura suitable for the taking. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

As narrator and son, Mantello is wiry, perhaps more middle-aged neurotic New Yorker than down-on-his-luck warehouse worker. Putting “type” aside, it makes no difference. Mantello bites into Williams’ language with a ferocity that some might remember from his Tony award-nominated performance in Angels in America. Mantello has no fear of unhinging Tom’s squelched life. And it helps that he has a terrific sparring partner in Sally Field.

Last seen on Broadway in Edward Albee’s 2002 The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, most of Field’s body of the work has been on the screen, both big and small. The two-time Academy Award winner and three-time Emmy Award winning actress as spanned half a century. Once again, the actress delivers a watershed moment, the culmination of more of a decade of yearning to return to the role, which she played at a Tennessee Williams Festival at the Kennedy Center in 2004. Gold guides her through a fluid vacillation between aging southern belle and contemporary matriarch.

Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in 'The Glass Menagerie.' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Making her Broadway debut, Ferris is tasked with perhaps the play’s most challenging role. Laura, often portrayed as waif-like with a non-discriminant limp or another physical challenge, is lost in the world of her menagerie. Drifting in and out of life’s social demands, it is easy to shroud her as a victim. But Ferris, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in her teens but hasn’t let that stop her from pursuing a theater degree from Muhlenberg College and moving to New York City, often as difficult to navigate as Williams’ masterwork. This conflict of strength and vulnerability sheds new light on Laura, who seems almost flippant at her mother’s eccentric pursuit of a gentleman caller. But Ferris tends to, at times, vacantly drift, nearly consumed by Mantello and Field’s master class.

But when Wittrock arrives as her gentleman caller, Ferris lights up. And who wouldn’t? He embodies an easy, All-American façade, but don’t be fooled by his good looks. Wittrock mines Jim for all he’s worth, clutching to a gem given by the playwright, who pegs Jim as a man in pursuit of upward mobility. Jim is taking a night course in public speaking, and Wittrock joyfully nudges this character detail to the forefront with a bellowing voice.

Stripped down to its bare walls, scenic designer Andrew Lieberman and lighting designer Adam Silverman create a barren theatrical landscape at the Belasco. But there is plenty to feast on in this eighth Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie.

The Glass Menagerie
Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street, NYC
Through July 2

3 to See: March

March 7th, 2017 Comments off

Spring is around the corner and the means a whole new crop of Broadway shows bursting on the scene. Here are our three picks of the month:

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

The Glass Menagerie
It’s Tennessee Williams like you’ve never seen it before. Sam Gold directs an all-star cast that includes Academy Award winner Sally Field, Tony Award Joe Mantello, Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in her Broadway debut. Stripped down to its electrifying core, don’t expect a flashy set typical of the Great White Way. Instead, Gold puts the Pulitzer Prize-winning play front and center, where it belongs. Following a few days in the lives of the dysfunctional Wingfield family, the memory play examines the family ties that bind and the cost to break free.

The Glass Menagerie
Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 8

The cast of 'Come From Away' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Come From Away’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Come From Away
A sleeper hit that’s been inching its way to Broadway after record-breaking engagements in La Jolla, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Toronto, this new musical is inspired by harrowing source material. On September 11, 2001, 38 planes with 6,579 passengers were stranded in a remote town in Newfoundland. The locals opened their hearts and homes, hosting this international community of strangers—spurring unexpected camaraderie in extraordinary circumstances. Christopher Ashley (Memphis) directs.

Come From Away
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 12

Eva Noblezada in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Eva Noblezada in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Miss Saigon
The 90s mega-musical returns with the revival of Miss Saigon, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical. Featuring its acclaimed stars from the London production, Jon Jon Briones, Eva Noblezada, Alistair Brammer, and Rachelle Ann Go, Miss Saigon promises to wallop audiences once again with sweeping melodies and scenic spectacle (Production Design by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley; Design Concept by Adrian Vaux.)

In the last days of the Vietnam War, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son. Bring tissues!

Miss Saigon
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
Opening night: March 23

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

 

 

 

Breaking: Sally Field to Star in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ on Broadway

June 6th, 2016 Comments off
Sally Field (Photo: Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field (Photo: Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Producer Scott Rudin announced today that two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field and two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello will return to the Broadway stage next season to star in Tennessee Williams’s most cherished play, The Glass Menagerie. Tony Award winner Sam Gold will direct the production, which will also star Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris, who will be making her Broadway debut in the role of Laura Wingfield. The Glass Menagerie will begin performances at Broadway’s Golden Theatre on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, with an official opening night set for Thursday, March 23, 2017.

“To say this is a dream come true is an understatement,” Ms. Field said. “Working with the best of the best, from Sam Gold to Joe Mantello to Scott Rudin, on one of the greatest plays ever written is beyond thrilling. Right now I can barely breathe. Hopefully that’ll pass.”

Mr. Gold first directed this production of The Glass Menagerie with an entirely Dutch cast at Toneelgroep Amsterdam (Ivo van Hove, Artistic Director) in an engagement that garnered rave reviews and massive international attention.

Mr. Gold said, “The experience I had doing this play in Amsterdam was life-changing, and the fact that we’ve managed to put together this cast to do it on Broadway is the most perfect outcome I could have imagined. Like any sane person, I’ve been hoping for Sally Field to carve out some time to do a play again. When I saw her Mary Todd Lincoln, I started dreaming of her as Amanda Wingfield. As for Joe Mantello, seeing that original production of Angels in America, in which he starred, was a great source of inspiration for me at the time. Because Joe is such a wonderful director, he has had very little time to act. I’m incredibly lucky that he has agreed to come back to the stage to play Tom.”

The Glass Menagerie is the play that brought a brilliant young writer named Tennessee Williams to national attention, and, in his own words, “changed my life irrevocably” when it first premiered on Broadway in 1945. More than seventy years later, Williams’s most personal work for the stage continues to captivate and overwhelm audiences around the world.  

Don’t Miss: Star-Studded Reading of ‘Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”

August 21st, 2015 Comments off

PosterDamn you, Kremlin.

Earlier in 2015, Moisés Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project were working with the Moscow New Drama Theatre and the U.S. State Department to produce a revival of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde in Moscow. In the middle of pre-production, the Kremlin blocked the revival because of the play’s LGBTQ content. In response to the cancellation, Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project has decided to produce a benefit reading in NYC to bring attention to the suppression of the rights of the LGBTQ community in Russia.

The star-studded, one-night-only special benefit reading of Moisés Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, the award-winning play about Oscar Wilde and the trials for his “crime” of homosexuality, will take place on October 5, 2015 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater (524 W. 59th St). Moisés Kaufman will direct.

Michael Emerson (photo: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)

Michael Emerson (photo: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)

Two-time Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson (“Lost”, “Person of Interest”) will star as Oscar Wilde. Emerson played the role of Wilde in the original production of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at the Minetta Lane Theatre in 1997.

Joining Emerson will be Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff (Broadway’s Hamilton, “Looking”) as Bosie, as well as two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field (Norma Rae, Places In The Heart, Lincoln), Golden Globe winner and six-time Emmy nominee Michael C. Hall (Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Dexter”), Tony Award and four-time Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce (Broadway’s Curtains, “Frasier”), Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Tony and Emmy Award winner Judith Light (Broadway’s Other Desert Cities, “Transparent”), Emmy Award nominee Darren Criss (Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Glee”), Emmy nominee Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), David Burtka (Broadway’s It Shoulda Been You, “How I Met Your Mother”)Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Miserables, “Smash”), Jose Llana(Broadway’s The King And I, Here Lies Love), Will Carlyon (Broadway’s Cabaret)and Jake Shears (Bent, The Scissor Sisters), with additional casting to be announced.

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde is sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Hilda Mullen Foundation.

Tickets range from $50 to $1000, with sponsorship packages available. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting http://www.tectonictheaterproject.org. All tickets will be held at will call and will be available for pick up starting at 6 pm at the venue.

All funds raised will benefit Tectonic Theater Project and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.