Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lange's Return To Glass Menagerie Opens In London

Lange's Return To Glass Menagerie Opens In London

Despite tepid reviews for her stateside appearance in The Glass Menagerie, Jessica Lange is dusting herself off and giving it another go across the pond as the Tennessee Williams play opens this evening at London's Apollo Theatre.

After the David Leveaux-helmed version opened on Broadway nearly two years ago, Ben Brantley of The New York Times had this to say about Lange's portrayal of Amanda Wingfield:

Folks drown in this treacherous element. Unfortunately, that includes the show's luminous but misdirected and miscast stars (including) the two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who brings a sleepy, neurotic sensuality to the role of the vital and domineering Amanda Wingfield.

Within its first 15 minutes, you feel the entire production sinking into a watery grave.

Ms. Lange could certainly be a model in such a magazine. Smooth-faced and compactly curvaceous, she portrays Amanda, a character modeled on Williams's mother, as a woman lost in erotic contemplation of the charming, sexy husband who abandoned her years before. Undulating by herself to the distant strains of dance hall music, or mistily recalling her glory days as the beau-besieged belle of her girlhood, Ms. Lange is less the image of Amanda than of another great Williams character.

That's Blanche DuBois, the illusion-addled heroine of A Streetcar Named Desire, a role Ms. Lange played in her last appearance on Broadway in 1992. Though she received mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that she was inaudible, she now seems fully prepared, technically and spiritually, to take on Blanche again.

Though I missed Ms. Lange's highly praised portrait in Long Day's Journey Into Night in London several years ago, I can see from her Amanda how she might have been splendid as O'Neill's Mary Tyrone. But hazy lyricism and remoteness, which would have been perfect for Mary, don't suit Amanda, who for all her obsession with the past is a vivacious, determined go-getter. Ms. Lange captures Amanda's injured quality. But she summons the combination of heroic vitality and bitterness that Williams describes in the script only in the play's final moments.

This time around, Rupert Goold directs the classic, which features Amanda Hale, Ed Stoppard and Mark Umbers. Will the second time be the charm for Lange? I'll provide a critics' capsule after the reviews are posted.

Separately, I'll be taking in the revival currently being staged at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre in the days ahead and will provide my review of that incarnation shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 15 February, 2007, Blogger StephenMosher said...

I saw the Broadway production. It was actually my first exposure to this play. There were problems with it--mainly directorial--but I really enjoyed the great Jessica Lange. Of course, I was in the second row so I was really able to see every nuance of her performance.

I love her.

I also loved Josh Lucas but I don't know if it was because he is a good actor (which he is) or because he is going to be my next boyfriend (in my dreams).


At 15 February, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ste - The point you've made appears to be that the closer you are to the actor, the more likely you are to grasp nuances that the broader audience probably won't pick up on. It's also one of the reasons why I enjoy getting seats as close to the stage as possible.


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