Thursday, September 8, 2016

No Menagerie

I mentioned in the previous post how an extremely detailed and negative review of The Glass Menagerie has pushed me entirely into the camp of not wanting to see this production.  There is an interesting back and forth in the comments about how open one should be to experiments and rethinking of the classics, and the response that this only works when the core of a play has been left intact.  The Globe and Mail reviewer, who I also generally trust, was quite lukewarm.  The new Star reviewer, who I don't trust, was more positive. It got a very positive blurb in Mooney's, but I only use Mooney's to tell me what is playing, since I hardly ever agree with their reviewers.

It's not that I have completely ignored experimental theatre over my long "career" of attending plays, but I really am a traditionalist when it comes to the classics.  I would much prefer someone call something The Glass Manger (inspired by Williams) rather than calling it The Glass Menagerie and inverting the play.  It is really the director who is using the Williams name as a brand to entice people to come (and so far it has sold out most nights) but then being extremely disrespectful to the main concepts of the play.  (Maybe I would feel differently if these plays were put on every year or so, but it can be 5 or even 10 years between productions of plays by someone other than Shakespeare, so most people are coming at it for the first time.  Is it really fair for that (fairly large) slice of the audience to radically reinterpret the play without at least slapping on a warning label?)

Here we have a woman who is not really a damaged flower (or Southern belle-in-waiting).  She creates all the glass figurines rather than collecting them as a way of avoiding dealing with the world.  She doesn't limp, and she pleasures herself on stage.  What does she need a gentleman caller for anyway?  Slotkin also points out that no matter how louche or self-centered a young man is, the idea that he would show up at a friend's house to eat a family dinner and wouldn't at least button up his shirt is pretty unthinkable.  Unless Millennials are even more self-centered and lacking in social graces than I have been led to believe...  Actually it sounds as if this production of the play is set in the  early 1990s (if it even is set in a specific time), and that would make the younger characters Gen Xers, and we knew to dress up a bit for dinner.  Finally, it really seems as if Slotkin is onto something when she says these characters don't seem to love each other at all, and Tom is pointlessly cruel in several scenes, which again is a gutting of the play.

I was going to write a more extended piece here, but I will just sum up that when it comes to choosing between staying true to the original concept as outlined by the playwright and a brash concept by an up-and-coming director, I will virtually always side with the playwright.  I find most directors that impose a radical new concept onto a play are basically egomaniacs, who don't have a fraction of the creative spirit of the playwright.  I basically find my sympathies go to the playwright, the audience, the actors and the director, in that order.

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