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It’s a well-known story, especially for American director Sam Gold. Over here, Tennessee’s A Streetcar Named Desire might be better known. An early work and his first success, The Glass Menagerie is a highly autobiographical play about the Wingfields, a family whose disintegration is told in painful detail but also with a great deal of poetic bravoure.
A memory play, the story is what narrator-and-character Tom Wingfield (Eelco Smits underplaying his age with conviction) remembers about his sister Laura’s (Hélène Devos) condition and their mother Amanda’s (a riveting Chris Nietvelt) quest for a suitor for her daughter (while reminiscing constantly about her own childhood and how many lovers she entertained). This search for a husband seems doomed and Amanda defies reality. But then Tom invites a chirpy workmate (Harm Duco Schut) and the expectations rise through the roof. As the play enters its second hour, the dinner and the special guest take center stage.
The evening is intensely varied in moods.
All the while, Tom is breadwinner working a dull job in a shoe factory. He escapes at night, drinking and ‘going to the movies’. He finds himself trapped: his overbearing mother and sister are financially dependent on him, but he wants to travel and experience adventure.
Gold focuses on Amanda’s sorrows in a way that the audience starts understanding her fussy, suffocating behavior. We come close to identifying with her: what’s wrong with wanting the best for your children? To my memory, the director has also avoided some of the references to the absent father – they are more numerous in the original.
Lastly, the production distills a great amount of humor from the script, which makes the evening intensely varied in moods. The pace, the dialogue, the wonderfully grand set design (Andrew Lieberman), everything works together like a well-oiled machine to present the story anew. Its integrity and fresh feel make it truly worthwhile – don’t miss this.
Image by Jan Versweyveld.
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