Zachary Quinto has pretty much cornered the market on Portraits of an Icon as a Young Man. Most notably there was Spock: The Early Years, in the "Star Trek" films, and now, arriving Sept. 26 at the Booth Theatre, is the Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie—it's Tennessee: The Early Years.
In Menagerie he answers to the name of Tom Wingfield, but it's a thin veil at best, hiding a poetic dreamer who is the family bread-winner, toiling meaninglessly in a warehouse to bring home the bacon for his mama, Amanda (Cherry Jones), and his crippled sister Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). On one melancholy occasion, after much Amanda-badgering, he brings home a gentleman caller (Brian J. Smith) for his painfully shy sister to try on for size. The memory of that night is the cross he bears.
"To play Tom—which is the clearest distillation of Tennessee Williams himself—at this time in my life is perfect," declares Quinto. "I'm just a little older than he was when he wrote the play, so I'm in very close relationship to a lot of the themes and issues he was struggling with that led him to this play. To me, that's a great gift as an actor—to enter into a role and an experience with that kind of foundation."
There's no shortage of info on the playwright—Young Tennessee, Old Tennessee, by Tennessee, about Tennessee—so Quinto did a mudbath of it all, especially Lyle Leverich's biography, "Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams." Reading books about Williams, he admits, "was really my main point of entry—his memoirs, his notebooks, and all those short stories that were the gestational inspiration for The Glass Menagerie."
Conspicuously missing from the Williams family household was Cornelius Coffin Williams, a shoe salesman who found shoes made for walking and never returned to the family fold. By the same token, the AWOL Wingfield patriarch is likewise long gone, "a telephone repairman who fell in love with long distance."
"There is a chain of abandonment that plagued Tennessee through his work and his life, and I think that chain began with his father," contends Quinto. "Then, that graduated to lessons of responsibility he had to face in caring for his mother and sister. I think it was that chain of abandonment that led him to write this play. He knew—and was living at the time—the need to break free of his responsibility to his family, especially the females in his family.
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