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Theater Review: 'The Glass Menagerie' -- 2.5 stars

"Glass Menagerie."

"Glass Menagerie." Credit: Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in "Glass Menagerie."

The Glass Menagerie
2.5 stars

Must every high-profile revival of Tennessee Williams’ 1944 breakout drama “The Glass Menagerie” be marred by an obtrusive and frustrating directorial concept or design scheme?

True, John Tiffany’s graceful production is a vast improvement over the 2005 Broadway production and the 2010 Off-Broadway staging.

But the excellent four-member cast —Cherry Jones (Amanda), Zachary Quinto (Tom), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Laura) and Brian J. Smith (Gentleman Caller) — is forced to compete against Bob Crowley’s chic but inappropriate set design, Natasha Diaz’s harsh lighting and Nico Muhly’s creepy, synthetic-sounding original music.

Written as a memory play, Tom Wingfield, a stand-in for Williams, directly addresses the audience and recollects living in an apartment with his domineering mother Amanda,once a Southern belle, and shy, somewhat crippled sister Laura. Drama occurs when Tom, at his mother’s urging, brings a co-worker to dinner as a potential suitor for Laura.

The spare set, which resembles an empty ballroom, consists of a pitch-black backdrop, small platforms surrounded by a lake of dark liquid, a sofa from which characters magically materialize and a sculpture-like winding fire escape that resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

But aside from these distractions, the acting is absolutely superb. Jones convincingly balances Amanda’s brave ferocity and kooky excesses. Keenan-Bolger exquisitely captures Laura’s sad, frail beauty. Even if Quinto comes off too casual and contemporary, he imbues Tom with a dreamy lyricism that contrasts with the clean-cut overachiever that is Smith’s Gentleman Caller.

“The Glass Menagerie” plays at the Booth Theatre through Jan. 5, 222 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200,

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