Review: “The Glass Menagerie” At The A.R.T.

We didn’t get to see our traditional movie this weekend; we were going to see “Amour,” but snowpocalypse intervened. So instead, I figured I’d write about the production of “The Glass Menagerie” that we saw. (Free tickets with CJ’s ART connections!)

So this was a very star-studded show, with ART royalty Cherry Jones as Amanda and SPOCK (Zachary Quinto) as Tom. The woman who played Laura I hadn’t heard of, but was also Wendy in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Everyone was terrific, to the extent that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Spock was compelling and funny, Cherry was extraordinary, and Laura and the Gentleman Caller were both incredibly real and almost painful to watch.

I haven’t seen a production of this show in quite a while, but I think when I’ve seen it before Laura was played as more childlike. In this, she wasn’t childlike at all, just incredibly shy and wounded, which I liked. And the Gentleman Caller here is played as more sympathetic than sometimes– ernest and misguided, where he can also be played as callous, even intentionally toying with Laura.

The set and stagecraft were also great. The stage is suspended in a pool of water or black goo which you could see some of the action reflected in. And the fire escape where some of the action takes place spirals upwards into the air echoing the glass unicorn’s severed horn. There’s also a truly stunning stage gimmick near the opening of the play. I can’t spoil it here, but it’s how one of the characters enters the stage, and it’s hands-down the best entrance I’ve ever seen onstage. It evoked loud gasps from 90% of the audience when we were there.

The one thing I didn’t like about the direction was an odd piece of choreographed business where Amanda and Laura do a little dance around the table, and sort of dance their hands around making patterns as they’re wiping it down. It just came out of nowhere and didn’t seem connected to the rest of the show at all. But for a flaw, it’s a pretty minor one, as it took about a minute and a half max.

On the whole, the play was expert, moving, and well-acted. Very funny occasionally, but the tone is genuinely quite dark by the end. I was pretty upset by the curtain call, but that’s sort of the point.

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