“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams is one of most famous American plays ever written, and it's also one of the most famous works of Southern literature ever produced. It’s studied far and wide, produced on stages all across the land and considered a classic by most theater fans. For those reasons, I added this play to my “bucket list” several years ago and finally got around to reading it from start to finish this past weekend.
For those of you unfamiliar with this play, it premiered in Chicago in 1944 and was based on a 1943 short story by Williams called “Portrait of a Girl in Glass.” A short time later, it moved to Broadway, where it opened in the Playhouse Theatre on March 31, 1945. Later, it moved to another Broadway theater, the Royale Theatre, where it opened on July 1, 1946.
The three main characters of the play are a young man named Tom Wingfield; his mother, Amanda; and his sister, Laura. Their father ran off years ago and they all live in a run-down apartment with Tom’s life-sucking warehouse job as their only means of support. Laura’s a strange (and ageing) woman with no marriage prospects to speak of, and Amanda hounds Tom to set her up with one of her friends. Near the end of the play, Tom brings home an old high school buddy, and the results are both sad and life altering for the Wingfields.
I didn’t actually own a copy of this play until last Thursday morning when I ran across a copy of it in a cardboard box beneath the used book table near the entrance to the Evergreen-Conecuh County Library in Evergreen, Ala. The librarian informed me that the books in the boxes beneath the table were free, so I walked out a few minutes later with a used copy of the New Directions Books paperback edition of the play. This paperback edition contains 115 pages.
This book was a relatively quick read. I started it on Saturday afternoon and finished reading it on Sunday afternoon. In all, I probably spent about three hours reading it.
Now that I’ve read it, I’d like to see a stage production of the play or one of the motion picture versions of the play. As far as I can tell, there have been two major motion picture versions of the play. The first was released in 1950 and the second hit theaters in 1987. Maybe I’ll add those to my “bucket list” next year.
I also want to check out some of Tennessee Williams’s other famous plays. Some of his best known include “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955). Oddly, I’ve seen the famous motion picture versions of both of these plays, but I’ve never read the printed play.
In the end, how many of you have read “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams? What did you think about it? Which of Williams’s plays is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.