There are only two weeks left to catch John Tiffany’s immaculate production of ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Probably the closest of Tennessee Williams plays to autobiographical, it catapulted him to fame when it premiered in 1944. Many claim it’s the perfect play and it’s easy to see why with a small family in just one room creating conflict and yearning of epic proportions.

Bob Crowley’s design walks a tightrope between utterly naturalistic and completely magical. Like a rabbit from a hat, Tom pulls his sister, Laura from the too solid sofa in the drab sitting room and the play begins. Natasha Katz’s lighting and Nico Muhly’s filmic score shift and modulate as the action dips in and out of time creating a dream-like quality to this ‘memory play’. The set is undoubtedly a beauty with a relatively naturalistic sitting/dining room on two interlocking hexagon’s that seem to float on a lake of glass. At night or when the characters dream, stars appear on the translucent surface and a crescent moon emerges.

Cherry Jones brings warmth and compassion to the domineering mother Amanda Wingfield, who has after all been abandoned by her husband and far from giving up on life spins stories of the ‘gentleman callers’ who desired her and those she imagines for her daughter. Whilst Michael Esper’s Tom has a restless energy and bounding desperation that drives the play, Kate O’Flynn is extraordinary as Laura, her acutely observed physicality and vocal vulnerability entirely convincing and in the end utterly beguiling. Terrified by anything out of her limited experience, she disappears into space, frozen in time, as fragile as her glass miniatures. Her awakening in Act 3 when the ‘gentleman caller’ (Brian J. Smith) dances her into life is quite mesmerising and it’s hard not to hope for a happy ending.

It could be a very dark play; after all mother will never regain her youth in Black Mountain with all those gentleman callers vying for her attention, Laura, too afraid of the real world will probably disappear deeper into her imaginary one and Tom will no doubt be wracked with guilt for abandoning them. But somehow Tiffany’s production has enough magic to leave us with a delicate hope, even if that hope will never become a reality – dreams might just be enough to sustain us.
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