the Glass Menagerie was originally produced in Chicago in 1944 and then staged in New York on Broadway in 1945. The text was also published in 1945. This play was the first of Wilhams's to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, an honor he was given four times. Although The Glass Menagerie also received much popular acclaim, some critics believe that the thematic devices that Williams relies on, such as the legends on the screen, are too heavy-handed.
The Glass Menagerie is autobiographical in its sources. In some ways, this is a coming of age story, with both Tom Wingfield and Laura Wingfield negotiating their roles as young adults. Like many coming of age stories, the major conflicts in this play are both internal and external; Tom cannot choose both the future he desires for himself and the future his mother, Amanda Wingfield, desires for him and for Laura. Emerging through this major conflict between Tom and Amanda are the themes of alienation and loneliness, duty and responsibility, and appearances and reality.
Through its poetic structure and reliance on stage technology, The Glass Menagerie has had a significant impact on later twentieth century drama. Tom serves as both narrator and character, dissolving the present into the past; Williams signals this by exploiting lighting and sound, especially music—technologies which were less available to earlier playwrights. In this sense, the themes of the play are inseparable from its production values
Throughout this play, emerging in every scene and through the actions of every character is the theme of Appearances vs. Reality. Characters believe in a future and a past which are not realistic, and these beliefs affect the decisions they make regarding their relationships with each other.
Each character is caught in a struggle, be it against self-doubt, an outside threat or, in the abandoned Amanda's case, the fading of her own beauty and stature as she clings resolutely to her southern belle past.
She makes a pitiable and laughable fuss of John Adam's "gentleman caller" Jim even before he materialises in the dimly lit St Louis apartment framed by fire escapes.
Flowers' staging and Jennie Tate's purposeful designs evoke an appropriate look, atmosphere and mood to faithfully manifest the play's poetic realism - a fluid dramatic aesthetic which Williams championed and demanded of practitioners throughout his career.
The final long scene and the preceding brittle battles of mother and son are the most compellingly drawn although Flowers' production could afford to turn up the heat a little at times. Some of the accents and rhythms are not altogether sharp although that is sure to come.
Already it's a strongly realised and poignant production due in no small measure to the conviction and prowess of the actors, notably Nevin whose technical skills and range make for a vivid, memorable portrait.
Her proud, cocooned Amanda is not merely insufferable or tyrannical and Nevin draws out the disappointment and self-pity beneath the incessant gaiety and delusion. It's a remarkably assured performance and so, too, is that of the newcomer Oxer, a star in the making.
Marcus Graham, a consistently good actor, is superb as the frustrated adventurer Tom who, in the drab "rise and shine" routine, elicits sympathy and enables the audience to project its own dreams - and dreads - on to the role.
After more than 50 years, the success of the play lies in
its truthfulness and how its
intimate focus and psychological detail opens out to summon universal concerns about family, separation, opportunity, idealism, judgement and survival - in essence, the life we try to make for ourselves.