PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Glass Menagerie — Reflections in a Golden Era

By Harry Haun
27 Sep 2013

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Smith has doubts that his Jim O'Connor, The Gentleman Caller himself, can produce a happy ending even for himself. "It changes for me night by night. Some nights I think he goes to that Wabash Depot and he sees Betty, and then he goes straight back to the Wingfields' apartment and gets back with Laura. He is of the generation that is going to fight, and win, World War II so there's a very good chance he's going to be on the fields of Europe or out in the Pacific. It's really interesting to think of him in that way, what will happen to him. Even though he's part of Tom's memory. Part of the murkiness and the beauty of it is that you wonder what happens to those people. You wonder where did he disappear to, back in time."

The Gentleman Caller, immaculately dressed, is the first Broadway role in which Smith managed to keep all his clothes on for the duration of the play (unlike Come Back, Little Sheba and The Columnist). "He does feel a little 'weird,'" he conceded. "Maybe I should run around and take my shirt off and party, but Amanda wouldn't have it.

"I was really surprised, as we were going through the process of rehearsing it — even going through previews — about the parallels between my life and Jim's life, the things I've been through as an actor. I didn't work in a warehouse, but I think most actors know what it feels like to go through periods where your star is shining to its potential and you're not reaching the thing you are trying so desperately to reach."

Rehearsing with his fellow players was a particular joy. "Working with Cherry and Zach is a master class. Not only is it a master class of craft, watching these amazing human beings, who are so generous with their time and with their advice and with their sense of compassion, is great. And Celia is one of the most incredible young women I've ever worked with. I'm flattered I get to call someone like that a friend."

Keenan-Bolger is another who seems to be ideally cast, but she insists it's not as spot-on as it appears. "Laura is almost the opposite of who I am, and I find that really, really freeing. It's wonderful. I love her. From the moment I auditioned for this part, I was, like, 'Oh, I get her.' My favorite thing about the role is that I'm not like her. I get to do something that is so foreign to how I feel inside and who I am. I find that exhilarating, and then getting to do it with those three people. That's the best job in the world."