In a humble house in Saint Louis, Amanda Wingfield (Broadway star Cherry Jones), and her two grown-up children, Tom (Michael Esper) and Laura (Kate O’Flynn) live a life overshadowed by the memory of the husband who abandoned the family years ago. Amanda lives in the memory of her youthful glory, once upon a time in Mississippi, and hopes for a ‘gentleman caller’ to marry her daughter and take the family’s troubles away. Tom toils at the warehouse by day and dreams of being a poet by night. Laura wanes softly in her mother’s shadow, and spends her life surrounded by little glass figurines.
John Tiffany’s production is bathed in dreamlike melancholy, starting from the first seconds of the play, when Tom summons the shadows of his sister and mother out of their old flat (Laura literally crawls out of the sofa). The family’s home sits over a quiet pool of water, occasionally illuminated by the reflection of the stars – an island or a lighthouse for Tom to come back to in memory. Bob Crowley’s beautiful stage design forms an ideal frame for the actors’ performance to unfold in.
This production by the director of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently premiering in the UK, after its success in Broadway, with a new cast – Cherry Jones excepted. Her portrayal of a dominating mother, smothering her children with her love, and her shattered dreams and ambitions, strikes the right chord in every scene. Added with her children’s and the long expected ‘gentleman caller’’s (Seth Numrich) performances, this makes for a moving, dreamy production of Tennessee Williams’ first major play.