The Real Glass Menagerie

Angela and I were able to go see a local production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” Saturday night. The cast and production were excellent and the audience, ourselves included, were moved by Laura’s panic attack as Jim arrives and with Tom’s final address of the audience.:

Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of coloured glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colours, like bits of a shattered rainbow.

Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes…

Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

I had recalled from high school that this play was largely autobiographical, but reading more about Williams’ life makes that scene all the more heartbreaking. One of Williams’ two sisters, Rose, was Tennessee’s (real name: Thomas) closest friend when growing up was the basis for the character of Laura, or “Blue Roses” as she is nicknamed in the play. Rose Williams was given a lobotomy —one with some apparently very bad effect on her personality— after he left home to pursue his career in writing. He later would move her to a closer facility and, upon his death, leave much of his wealth to provide for her.

“The Glass Menagerie” was a ground-breaking play in how it dealt with personality disorders, inter-family dynamics, and the cost of leaving home for one’s own sake. It’s no wonder it still has so much power knowing what Williams went through for the source.

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