Despite an astonishing performance by Cherry Jones and a cast that includes Hollywood commodity Zachary Quinto, the American Repertory Theater Company’s “The Glass Menagerie” lacks the emotional punch Tennessee Williams intended.
Williams’ lyrical words should move you to tears as you watch the bleak plight of the Depression-era Winfield family. Instead, an overly-choreographed, heavy-handed production leaves you feeling distracted rather than invested in what could be a gut-wrenching ride.
A plethora of small choices make you wonder why more of this “memory play” isn’t left to your imagination. There’s strange hand-gesturing by the family, an oddly-placed crescent moon and a “Menagerie” of only one.
A key moment of dramatic tension comes in the first act when Tom (Quinto) throws his coat and accidentally knocks over Laura’s glass collection. At this performance, the coat did not come close enough to do any damage, eliminating the need for Laura to grapple with the dilemma of her beloved brother destroying the thing she loves most.
Quinto also misses the mark with the gay subtext of Tom’s storyline. His overly-feminized mannerisms and blatant physical attraction to the Gentleman Caller are not subtle enough to introduce a necessary sense of intrigue. As the Gentleman Caller, however, Brian J. Smith lights up the stage and compensates for many of the production’s shortcomings. Cecilia Keenan-Bolger also fares well, capturing the emotional pain of Laura, but the inconsistency of her virtually non-existent limp is troubling.
In the end, the reason to see “The Glass Menagerie” is Jones’ tour de force performance. The Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress (who is also a founding member of the A.R.T.) is simply magnificent as Amanda, the faded Southern belle who never gives up on her dream.
‘The Glass Menagerie’
Through March 17
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St., Cambridge