Century Collection Critical Essay Glass Interpretation Menagerie Twentieth

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Book Reviews 277 makes An American Odyssey a worthwhile introduction to a fascinating artist fraught with controversy and paradox. ARTHUR TODRAS, UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND R.B. PARKER, ed. The Glass Menagerie: A Collection of Critical Essays. (Twentieth Century Interpretations) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall 1983. Pp. ix, 166. $5.95 (PB). On March 31, 1945, a new period in the history of the American drama, and indeed in that of World theatre, had its formal beginning at the Playhouse Theatre in New York. For on the evening of that day, Tennessee Williams's innovative drama, Tlze Glass Menagerie, opened to critical acclaim. Both critics and members of the widening audience which was eventually to see this drama recognized it as an essentially new form, a kind expressive of the realities of life in the world already taking shape in the final period of World War II. Jn Menagerie, Williams succeeded in creating a popular form of poetic quality. In the years between 1945 and his death in 1983, he continued the pattern of experimentation established in this innovative work, seeking to expand its range of images, characters, themes, settings, and modes of action in ways consistent with his changing vision. R.B. Parker's thoughtful selection of essays on Menagerie in the Twentieth Century Interpretations series is a collective study of the idea of form in this early work. The essays assembled by Professor Parker treat both the distinguishing characteristics of this definitive work and the complex process through which its form evolved. The essays­ all of which have been previously published- have been organized in four sections. The first of these includes reviews of Broadway productions of the play by Stark Young, Brooks Atkinson, and Howard Taubman, and an analysis of the film version of the play by Maurice Yacowar. Part Two, "Influences and Variants," focuses on textual studies. Illuminating essays by Gilbert Debusscher and Thomas L. King treat Williams's transposition of literary conventions to the stage. Essays by James L. Rowland, Lester A. Beaurline, and R.B. Parker take somewhat different approaches to the analysis of the text. All three are concerned with the significance of the various versions of the play, including the variant interpretations recorded in the manuscripts housed in collections at the Universities of Virginia and Texas. Beaurline follows the progression of Menagerie from "story to play," while Rowland compares "acting" and "reading" versions of the work. Parker traces the evolution of the form of the play through various stages of development documented in materials deposited at the University of Texas. Essays in Part Three are addressed to Williams's attempts to develop expositional strategies appropriate for the interpretation of the unique characters who people the world of the play. Benjamin Nelson follows Williams in interpreting characters in this early work as functions of memory. Tom Scanlan's essay comments on the playwright's adaptive use of social psychology in rendering his characters. John Strother Clayton Book Reviews interprets Williams's use of imagery, particularly the "sister figure," as a kind of expositional "short-hand." Part Four, "Dramaturgy," offers tentative conclusions about the achievement of this early work. Frank Durham describesMenagerie as a poem written in the language of the modem stage. Roger B. Stein concludes that Williams's success in this work is derived from his ability to achieve a "delicate balance" between the play's poetic form and its social, psychological, and religious contents. The section concludes with Paul T. Nolan's comparison of Menagerie and Arthur Miller's After the Fall as examples of a new dramatic genre - the memory play. The collection of essays assembled by Parker is particularly valuable at this time. It not only offers a highly useful review of criticalinterpretations of The Glass Menagerie, but also provides an opportunity to reexamine Williams's career and to reassess his contribution to the idea of dramatic form, as well as to the literature of the modem theatre. The editor takes this reassessment to be a necessary function, commenting in the concluding lines of his excellent introductory essay that, "Despite the goodwork already done, scholarship on Williams is still only just beginning." An important line of such scholarly and critical...

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