Dysfunctional. Codependent. Enmeshed. Low self-esteem. Personal struggles of the twenty-first century or those of the past? In his play, The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams portrays a southern family of the 1940's attempting to cope with life's pressures, and each of their own conflicts, after they have been deserted by their father and husband. In attempting to create a modern-day movie adaptation of The Glass Menagerie from the original play, a parallel element would still be conveyed to the audience- inner and intra personal struggles of the past continue to be those of the present.
If produced in the present day, the new version would have seemingly subtle changes such as new speaking styles, characters, and sets that will allow it to become modernized. Some original parts of the play such as "dated" dialogue, character traits, and settings will be discarded, but the original vision of Tennessee Williams will remain intact by keeping elements essential to recounting the Wingfield Family struggles. As director of the updated production of The Glass Menagerie, one would first have to look at the type of speaking style and dialogue as a means to modernize the original content. In the play, Amanda, the mother, is characteristic of a southern belle. Her language reflects the stereotypical tradition and the polite nature of a southern woman. Tom and Laura, in keeping with their roots, also speak in this manner.
To make the speaking style more current, the director can remove the twang from their voices and replace southern-associated words and sayings with the lingo and speaking style of present times. Throughout the play, there are several harsh and bitter fights between Tom and Amanda, and in other parts of the play the dialogue between the characters is much more relaxed and pleasant. For the most part, the original lines in The Glass Menagerie would be used in the newer version, keeping the same thoughts and ideas expressed in the original play. Using the same dialogue with a different speaking style would preserve the vital character dynamics Tennessee Williams created.
In contrast to the somewhat subtle vernacular changes, the interest of the average moviegoer of today would be sparked by the addition of well-known Hollywood actors to portray the characters of The Glass Menagerie. This would probably prove the most effective means of creating a contemporary piece of theater from one of the past. In casting this movie, new actors and actresses should be able to fit the role of their designated character and mesh well with their personalities. In the original play, Amanda, a grown woman, tries to live in the past through her children. An actress who would portray her character traits the best would be Kathy Bates. Bates' overbearing mother character in the movie "The Water Boy" exemplifies her similar traits with Amanda.
From her past roles, Bates' characteristics, like her ability to control her children through superiority towards them, makes her the best choice for this role. Kevin Spacey's role in the movie "American Beauty" best parallels Tom's life in the play. Spacey's character, like that of Tom, drinks heavily, frequently attempts to escape reality, and finds himself stuck in a dead end job. In the new production of The Glass Menagerie, Tom would continue to provide a narrative account.
Not only does this keep the audience involved, but the narrator-audience relationship provides the feeling of a connection with the Wingfield Family. His character seems the best fit for this function, as he is the most balanced of the family members. Amanda would be too aggressive, Laura too passive. Laura's character lives in her own world and is only comfortable around familiar people and things. Her glass menagerie and record collection are what make her unique to the world around her. In the movie, "The Other Sister," Juliette Lewis plays a young adult with a mental handicap.
Like Laura, Lewis' character collects curious objects, longs to find true love, and is searching for her place in the world. Laura's love interest in The Glass Menagerie is Jim, a suave young gentleman who is charismatic and charming. Jim gives false hope to Amanda and Laura and crushes Laura's spirit when he admits that he is engaged to another woman. Matt Damon's role in the movie "The Talented Mr.
Ripley" would make him a good fit for the role of Jim. Damon's character is cunning, deceitful, and somewhat villainous, but maintains his appeal, partly based on his good looks and charm. In modernizing specific content of The Glass Menagerie, and producing it in a movie format, a piece of American literature would become more accessible and appealing to the general public. But in conclusion, none of the key elements Tennessee Williams developed will have changed from the beginning to the end.
Laura is still dependent, shy, and lonely. Tom still has no real future, even though he runs away to fulfill his dreams. Amanda has no job and continues to relive her past. And we don't really know what becomes of Jim.
In an effort to free themselves, these characters become more entangled in their problems. The ending is sad and without hope. However, The Glass Menagerie proves to be timeless. Many of us can relate to these characters in some way. Most of us have struggled at some point with fear, insecurity, dysfunction, codependency, and the complexities of life. The inner and intra personal struggles of the past remain those of the present, no matter what the perspective may be..