In Tennessee Williams memory play, The Glass Menagerie, which has just extended its run at the Laura Pels Theatre as a production of the beleaguered Roundabout Theatre Company, Tom Wingfield – the voice of Mr. Williams and narrator of the piece cannot forget his sister Laura. And neither will you. He cannot get her out of his mind. And as The Glass Menagerie unfolds you will be unable to forget or to erase the magical and heart wrenching performance given by Keira Keeley.
As she limps across the stage with as much dignity and grace that she can muster up under the smothering love of their mother Amanda to play again the worn out records and amuse herself with her collection of miniature glass animals, her shyness and insecurity will just about break your heart. It is only when Tom brings home one of his co-workers at the warehouse for dinner, and the lights go out because he hasn’t paid the electricity bill, having instead joined the Merchant Marines, that Laura begins to break through her frailties and we see a glimmer of the beautiful girl trapped within her mind and body. Keira Keeley is giving a magnificent performance. It is a testament to her ability as an actor that she is as strong as she is and holds her own up against the equally riveting, robust and beautiful performance of Judith Ivey as her mother Amanda. No shrinking genteel Southern belle portrayal for her.
Amada is a cloying, overpowering mother that lives in the past while wondering what the future will hold. Remembering her “Gentleman Callers” while admitting she fell under the spell of the charm of her husband who deserted them and trying not to let go of her son Tom (Patch Darragh) who is a drinker and a dreamer who wants to be a writer, whose only escape from his misery at home is going to the movies, looking for adventure and always fearful that he is too much like his father whose portrait is omnipresent.
Michael Mosley as Jim O’Connor – Laura’s first and only “Gentleman Caller” brings an outgoing charm and almost false sense of bravado to his role. Their candlelit scene is one of the most memorable of the season.
Which brings me to Gordon Edelstein, the director. He has chosen to stage this production is a new and somewhat controversial manner. Which I happen to have loved. Tom is writing his story as the other actors perform it. As it is a memory play it takes place in his hotel room and the story comes to life there. It is mostly successful and quite original is its execution aided by set designer Michael Yeargan and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton.
As Tom tries to type out his pages, getting drunk and doing what every writer does best, procrastinate, the memory of his home life and the tenderness he feels for his sister, his desires and his mother’s wants play out as he tells his story, looks on as observer and partakes of the action.
This production of The Glass Menagerie should be seen for its brave concept and terrific quartet of fine actors. www.roundabouttheatre.org Photo: T. Charles Erikson