The Glass Menagerie

A Review - by David Flapan


Tennessee Williams has done dozens of plays, but The Glass Menagerie is one of his that have remained a timeless classic. January 19, 1998, was actually my first time seeing a production of this show. It was at the Steppenwolf, the legendary Chicago theater company.

In St. Louis in 1934, there lived a family. Members of this family are Amanda Wingfield, the mother whose husband left the family 15 years ago; Tom Wingfield, her long-suffering son; and Laura Wingfield, the fragile daughter. Each character is highly developed, and gets his/her own time in the show's spotlight.

Tom goes to work at a warehouse everyday, and to the movies every night. Laura sits around playing records and maintaining her glass menagerie collection. Amanda keeps house and searches for a gentleman caller for Laura. Tom eventually brings home a friend from work for Laura, under the pretense of a friendly dinner.

The women in this show, as in most of Williams' plays (Streetcar Named Desire; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), are the most complex. Steppenwolf Ensemble member Molly Regan is superb as the overbearing, desperate Amanda. SE member Tim Hopper is more than adequate as Tom, who also breaks the fourth wall serving as narrator. New SE member Martha Plimpton, probably the biggest name in the cast, is Laura. She immerses herself in the role, as she convinces us with Laura's limp, her quiet, fragile tones, her shyness, and her trepidation at anything new, be it going to the store, meeting a guy, a class, or seemingly almost anything that life has to offer that pulls her away from her familiar surrroundings.

As directed by Tom Brokaw, all of the characters are richly familiar and empathetic. Despite the period of 1934, the storylines of struggling to search for your future (Tom), shyly meeting a suitor (Laura), and trying to raise a family (Amanda), are rather timeless.

The Glass Menagerie is playing at the Steppenwolf Theater. Tuesdays and Thursdays feature a post-show discussion with the cast. I went on a Tuesday, and got to see the cast out of character and talking with us, the audience. Quite a treat. Go one of those days if possible. Check out their website, or call 312-335-1650 for more info.