As with virtually everything else about the brazenly unconventional new The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, the first glimpse an audience gets of Sally Field is her Amanda Wingfield doing something wholly unexpected. Amanda’s reclusive daughter, Laura, is played by an actress, Madison Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy and requires a wheelchair. To jolt us into an understanding of how wearingly devoted this Amanda is, the director, Sam Gold, arranges for Field to enter, painstakingly dragging the wheelchair up several steps at the front of the stage.
Joe Mantello, Sally Field and Finn Wittrock in The Glass Menagerie on Broadway. (Julieta Cervantes)
Clump, clang, clump, clang. It looks arduous for the grimacing Field, who at 70 has the petite countenance of an anxious sparrow. She is not, however, one to whine. This, she explains, is an unorthodox Menagerie that has come into being by mutual consent.
“He doesn’t say, ‘This is what I want,’ ” the actress explains, sitting in a tiny room across from her dressing room in the Belasco Theatre. “That’s not how Sam does. He offers an environment, and everybody sort of blends in — everybody evolves into it on their own. If you use a metaphor that may be really a crappy one, it’s just sort of like the petals are slowly unfolding and you don’t know what’s going to be at the core of it. It’s like it’s all evolving.”