I've been thinking about mothers lately, and not only because of Mother's Day. Last week, the TG and I saw a wonderful production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE starring a good friend of ours, and it set off a chain reaction of Mother thoughts.
Amanda Wingfield is one of the great characters in the history of American theatre and one of its most frightening, most recognizable mothers. A faded Southern belle, a single mother trying to make the best for her family, Amanda is a monster of love and control. Every mother has a bit of Amanda in her, unfortunately. And that's what helps to make her an indelible character. Tennessee Williams' poetry makes her voice absolutely distinctive, but her actions are universally understandable. (In fact, all four characters – Amanda, her son Tom, her daughter Laura, and the Gentleman Caller – are all great creations.)
And what poetry!
"Why, you're not crippled, you just have a little defect — hardly noticeable, even! When people have some slight disadvantage like that, they cultivate other things to make up for it — develop charm — and vivacity — and — charm!"
"Being disappointed is one thing and being discouraged is something else. I am disappointed but I am not discouraged."
"You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don't plan for it."
"All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be."
"Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."
"In memory, everything seems to happen to music."
"When I had that attack of pleurosis - he asked me what was the matter when I came back. I said pleurosis - he thought that I said Blue Roses! So that's what he always called me after that. Whenever he saw me, he'd holler, "Hello, Blue Roses!"
"Why, man alive, Laura! Just look about you a little. What do you see? A world full of common people! All of 'em born and all of em' going to die! Which of them has one-tenth of your good points! Or mine! Or anyone else's, as far as that goes - gosh! Everybody excels in some one thing. Some in many!"
"The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They're one hundred times one thousand. You're one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here."
"Possess your soul in patience - you will see!"
"Go, then! Go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!"
"I didn't go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places"
"For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura -- and so goodbye. . . ."
Digging out these quotations from the play has shown me again what a masterpiece it is. Why? Because each line could have come from the mouth of only one character: Williams created living, breathing, unique people.
Anyone in the Los Angeles area who wants to see a first-class production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE should get themselves to the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre and see the brilliant Katherine James as Amanda, Christian Durso as Tom, Andrea Muller as Laura, and Ross Phillips as The Gentleman Caller in this thoughtful, moving staging by Christian Lebano.
And so begun an avalanche of thoughts about mothers and the great – and not-so-great mothers of fact and fiction.
Medea ... Queen Gertrude ... Eleanor Iselin in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE ... Charlotte Haze from LOLITA ... Ma Joad ... Marmee from LITTLE WOMEN ... Sophie Portnoy from PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT ... Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE ... Janice Angstrom from RABBIT, RUN ... Mildred Pierce ... the two Livias (I, CLAUDIUS and THE SOPRANOS) ... Fantine in LES MISERABLES ... the mother in NOW, VOYAGER ... that honorary mother, Auntie Mame
... not to mention the great mothers of television: Donna Reed, Jane Wyatt, Marge Simpson, Morticia Addams, June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Clair Huxtable, Rosanne Conner, and so many others.
Here's a big, overfilled plate of mother's love of all kinds. Eat, bubbuleh!
Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate – the climactic "kiss" scene
Mildred Pierce and Vida fight on the staircase
Shelley Winters in LOLITA – "the brainless bubba ... the noxious mama"
"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."
Charlotte Vale confronts her mother in NOW VOYAGER – Bette Davis v. Gladys George
MEDEA with the great Zoe Caldwell – I saw this production on Broadway.
Comments on "The Glass Menagerie" and Tennessee Williams by Robert Bray, Editor of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review
THE GLASS MENAGERIE (1973) – with Katherine Hepburn, Sam Waterston, Joanna Miles, and Michael Moriarty – directed by Anthony Harvey
THE GLASS MENAGERIE (1987)– with Joanne Woodward, John Malcovich, Karen Allen, and James Naughton – directed by Paul Newman
THE GLASS MENAGERIE – Tom's last monologue – by John Malcovich
Hamlet visits Queen Gertrude
THE DONNA REED SHOW – the opening credits for every year (1958-66)