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.