REVIEW: “The Glass Menagerie” @ Hubbard Hall [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
When you live with a story for a long time – and most Americans are introduced to Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in high school or college – you see it through the lens not only of your own personal experience, but also of the social milieu of the day. I first met this play as a teenager in the early 1970s. Freudian theory was still widely accepted, and Amanda Wingfield was presented as a selfish, domineering mother who stifled her children and ruined their lives. It was still generally believed that a mother like that was the cause of a son’s homosexuality. At first I saw Amanda as the villain of the piece.
Later, I transferred that title to Tom, who abandons his mother and helpless sister just like his father before him. Now I tend to consider Jim, the gentleman caller, as the villain who raises, then crushes Amanda and Laura’s hopes.
The Glass Menagerie, currently playing at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, is the mostly highly autobiographical of Williams’ plays, and his first commercial success. It is obvious that Tom is Williams – whose given name was Thomas – and Laura is his elder sister, Rose, who ended up institutionalized for life after a botched lobotomy. Amanda is their mother, Edwina Dakin Williams. The family did live in St. Louis, his father was a traveling salesman more often on the road than at home, and Williams did work in a shoe warehouse. But Williams was the sickly child over whom his mother fawned, and there was another son in the family.