10 July 2007

11. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

A great play and the first I have read by him.

Tom and Laura Wingfield live at home with their single mother Amanda. Their father, "a telephone man in love with long distances," deserted the family when they were young.

Amanda rides herd on Tom, telling him he smokes too much, eats too fast, goes to the movies too much, drinks too much, doesn't work hard enough, is too selfish, and on and on.

Tom works at a warehouse and writes poetry on his breaks. He does go to the movies a lot, but simply to get away from the house and have some adventures, if only by proxy.

Laura, unfortunately, is a very, very shy girl. She doesn't work, doesn't have any friends, and for the past six years since she graduated from high school, seems content to listen to old records and polish her menagerie of little glass statues.

All Amanda wants to do is get Laura set up with a gentleman caller.

That's all I'll say about the plot. The writing is exquisite. Check this opening description of their apartment building:

The Wingfield apartment is in the rear of the building, one of those vast hive-like conglomerations of cellular living units that flower as warty growths in overcrowded urban centers of lower middle-class population and are symptomatic of the impulse of this largest and fundamentally enslaved section of American society to avoid fluidity and differentiation and to exist as one interfused mass of automatism.

Like a crowbar to the side of the head, man!

A really excellent play; I wish someone would read it and then have a dialogue with me.

I'm very much looking forward to reading Streetcar Named Desire. And I understand that Williams also wrote a number of short stories and some of them he used as mannequins for the dressmaking of his plays, but I still want to read them. The guy can really turn a phrase.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes love Menagerie and most of T Williams works. His best plays are as close to dramatic prose poetry as you can get in AmericanTheatre. At moments they approach opera. The characters reach so deeply to hidden pain and almost sing to each other. Tom's final monologue in GM.. absolutely brilliant. Blow out your candles, Laura...

I did a lot of professional acting in Chicago about 10 years ago. Got to play Gentleman Caller in GM, Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (another great piece of writing), and Shannon in Night of the Iquana. I loved playing the Williams roles. Gent Caller is great, the long expected much anticipated character. As an actor you have really about 20 minutes and that's it but Williams gives you a whole lot to work with. The dance with Laura and the kiss was always perfection. You couldn't NOT make that moment work.

Anyway, enjoyed your review of GM. I'm glad I found the site. I'll watch for your STreetcar review!
ken dude from utah