Between “American Horror Story” and “Star Trek,” we know Zachary Quinto is a fine actor. Watching him conquer a role so many have owned and face off against the formidable Cherry Jones in his Broadway debut, proves Quinto is in a vaunted league.
He is superb as Tom in John Tiffany’s revival of Tennessee Williams’ 1944 classic “The Glass Menagerie” at the Booth Theatre. The run was just extended through Feb. 23, and this is a must for anyone who appreciates drama.
Playing his Southern belle mother, Amanda, Jones gives the sort of performance we have come to expect from an actor who has won an Emmy (“24”) and two Tonys (“Doubt,” “The Heiress”).
Though that is the expectation, this could have been creaky or just not worked, which would not be the first for revivals of Williams’ plays. Instead, this is a version that will be talked about for a long time. And though it is early in the Broadway season, it’s difficult to imagine that Quinto and Jones will not, at the very least, be nominated for Tony Awards in the spring.
Quinto is angry, resentful, restless and controlled as Tom. Jones is haughty, delusional and manipulating as Amanda.
Amanda is a woman who, quite understandably, prefers the past, the days when she once had “17 gentlemen callers” in one afternoon, and when her future seemed limitless. Many of those suitors went on to major careers and she fell in love with Tom and Laura’s father who abandoned the family. Tom’s younger sister, Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger), pretty much defines vulnerable.
It’s the middle of the Great Depression, and the family lives in a dingy apartment in St. Louis.
The deceptively simple set brings us into their tiny world. Six fire escapes, diminishing in size as they escalate, are a constant reminder to the family’s status.
Tom, who wants to be a writer, works at a warehouse and is miserable. Poor timid Laura with her game leg and fear of life, just wants to play with her glass figurines, the menagerie, and keep peace between her overbearing mother and frustrated brother, which is nothing short of an impossible quest.
Amanda finally persuades Tom to bring home a friend for Amanda to meet. Before James, the gentleman caller, (Brian J. Smith, “Defiance” “Stargate Universe”) even steps in the door, Amanda is marrying off her daughter.
To understand just how terrific this version is, even for those who know this play well, the waltz scene will bring you to tears. As James leads Laura around the threadbare living room, in her first dance, for just a few moments you almost believe it can end happily.
And that is the sign of a marvelous production.