Nick Gruber’s Reality Show Hits YouTube!
By Michael Musto
BREAKING THE “GLASS” CLOSET
And now, we return to our regular programming, and some much higher culture: While large-scale Broadway productions have scores of people frantically singing and twerking in an attempt to break even, Tennessee Williams’ classic The Glass Menagerie can do that—and even break your heart—with just four characters, some knick knacks, and a pond. All they need up there, human-wise, is a faded Southern belle who loves too hard, her aspiring poet son who escapes too much, his sickly outcast of a sister who’s searching for a major shakeup, and a hunky gentleman caller who sweeps in and turns her world (and glass unicorn) upside down. Voila! It’s magic, and when presented by the kind of creative team that’s brought it from Cambridge to Broadway (where previews start this week), the play attracts the kindness of strangers, and more importantly, critics, who’ve called it the second coming of Tennessee, Christ, and good theater. This is a long way from YouTube shows about colorful people exploiting each other while holding shopping bags.
At a recent meet-and-greet, the production’s director, John Tiffany (pictured here) reminded me that this isn’t a naturalistic work, by any means. “It’s a dream play, a memory play,” he said. “In the opening monologue, Tom says, ‘This is not real.’ ” But even though he’s a rather hazy figure, is Tom a proxy for Tennessee Williams himself? “Yes,” said Tiffany (who won a Tony for Once last year). “Tom was Tennessee’s real name.” End of mystery! Gosh, my sleuthing skills are amazing these days.
But if the character is based on Tennessee, then Tom likes guys, right? “I think he’s gay, definitely,” replied Tiffany. “It’s set in the ‘30s, in the Depression. There isn’t that kind of emancipated sexuality there for Tom. It’s all very claustrophobic and pressured. But let’s not forget that Amanda says to him, ‘I don’t believe you go to the movies every night. I think you’re doing things you’re ashamed of’.” “It’s probably a very different kind of movie theater,” I cracked. “It’s what happens in those movies,” Tiffany countered, with a knowing laugh.
Zach Quinto has beamed in from the planet Vulcan to play Tom, so at the same event, I asked him if he agrees with what Tiffany said about the character’s sexuality. “Parts of it, sure,” he replied, economically. And where does Zach think Tom goes when he says he’s going to the movies? “That’s for me to know,” he said. “We don’t have to tell the audience the answers to those questions. I know the answer myself.” But he would say this: “He’s constantly searching for some sense of belonging that’s unattainable.”
Well, Tony winner Cherry Jones has found a sense of belonging while playing his flamboyantly flawed mama, Amanda, though she told me she used to find the character more than a little bit freaky. “I had a chip on my shoulder about her,” Cherry admitted, adding that she’s developed an affinity for the complex role, especially when realizing the sheer moxie that had her supporting her kids through the Depression after being abandoned. Would Amanda be on meds today, thereby making for a much shorter play? “No, she wouldn’t,” said Cherry, playing along with my annoying question. “That’s not the situation. But the children might have had a little more help. Laura might have been in Special Ed.”
Well, let’s just keep everything as it is, especially since Cherry said kids have been spellbound by the production, as have really old people. “I want everyone who loves theater to see it,” she said, “but mostly I want everyone who hates theater to see it!” I’ll catch it one night when I’m not sneaking off to the movie theater, lol.