STRATFORD REVIEW #3 - The Glass Menagerie
I hadn't read the script prior to seeing the play, and this was the first production of the show I've seen. Having no basis for comparison, I'll have to settle for saying that it was an excellent play. Having a more intimate (4-person) cast, the most substantial set, and the most tragedy of any of the 3 plays, it stands as a different kind of show. Musicals and comedies share a sense of humour, and a certain dramatic exaggeration. Here, the hyperbole is the fault of memory - or so we are told in the introduction - and does not call for a suspension of disbelief.
The play is beautiful, although I saw a better performance of a mentally disadvantaged sister in the play Andy's Promise, at the Edinburgh fringe festival this August. Where The Glass Menagerie truly succeeds is in dialogue:
"Whenever you shout 'Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!', I realize how lucky DEAD PEOPLE are!"Is a particularly memorable passage (spoken by the protagonist to his mother). The preface to the play I found a little superfluous, however. It kindly explains how memory is not perfect, and how this play is this, that, and the other...It borders on insulting the viewer's intelligence, I think. The social background of the 1930s is useful, but everything else is redundant, considering most of the facts revealed are discussed - sometimes at length - in the play.
All in all, however, it is a play with too much hope, and too little. There is no real resolution, only a place where "Imagination begins". Oddly enough, the conclusion to Winnie the Pooh is in much the same style. The similarity extends, (and if you have read/seen one, but not both of the two, I hope this helps your understanding of the other) in that the last scene of each is the END of wonderful imagination, leaving precious little for the audience to begin with. The promise of the Gentleman caller, and the promise of Christopher Robin's imaginary world - both gone. You are allowed, perhaps encouraged to imagine more, when the very fruit of imagination is no longer sweet. In either case, all that is left are the pits of melancholy.
I was elated earlier, to find further proof that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, in some ways, timeless. There will always be people who won't get it, but there will - likewise - always be the lucky bunch who do. Then it hits me; is it because that movie plays so much with suffering, that it is so amusing to so many? Shakespeare's comedies are still around, sure, but so much of the humour - even the sex jokes - is lost on a modern audience (digression: with properly bawdy actions, this loss of funny can be reversed significantly). The climax of HMS Pinafore is not as funny to an audience that does not know the importance that class held in England. The Black Knight scene, however, will not lose impact (until we can re-grow legs, which would be damn cool!). What IS he going to do? Bleed on Arthur?. Maybe I'm wrong, but think about it for a while...
On a final note, the plane crash that happened in NY recently is an unfortunate event on so many levels. 5 years + on, and you're even momentarily dragged back to the horrors of that one awful day? As an accident alone, it was bad. That it went the way it did smacks of cruel irony.
Until next time, keep diggin' them bomb shelters. If you need me, I'll be filling sandbags.