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Zachary Quinto’s Five-Star ‘Menagerie’; ‘Arguendo’: Stage

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Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A still, black pool surrounds the vibrant revival of “The Glass Menagerie” that opened last Thursday night on Broadway.

We’re mesmerized even before we meet Tom Wingfield, the narrator of Tennessee Williams’s haunted memory play.

Tom is broodingly essayed by gravel-voiced Zachary Quinto. He brings not just star quality but sandpaper cunning and furtiveness to the role of a son who just wants out of the prison of his life.

The St. Louis apartment Tom shares with his badgering mother and crippled sister has been reimagined by the brilliant designer Bob Crowley as a dark dream linking heaven and hell.

The fire-escape where Tom smokes and dreams of leaving is a staggered tower rising skyward like a lightning bolt. A neon sliver of a moon occasionally glimmers above the inky pool to indicate a night scene, spookily accented by Natasha Katz’s lighting.

That’s a bold departure from the dingy setting usually employed to heighten the distance between Tom’s gauzy recollections and shabby reality.

While he ran off to the movies, his mother Amanda desperately hawked magazine subscriptions on the telephone while conniving to snare the elusive “gentleman caller” who might marry frail Laura and release them from poverty.

Cherry Jones

Cherry Jones also defies expectations, playing Amanda not as a badgering witch but as a cauldron of disappointment overwhelmed with love and fear for her children’s futures.

Warm and touchingly humane, she anchors the near perfect quartet completed by Celia Keenan-Bolger, who makes Laura more than just a wind-tossed leaf, and Brian J. Smith’s effusively amiable Gentleman Caller, whose kiss embodies all the dashed hope that is Laura’s fate.

The play has been sensitively staged by the “Once” team of John Tiffany and movement director Steven Hoggett. You will probably forgive them, as I did, the digressions into mimed business that occasionally stop the play in its tracks.

At the Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: *****

Kitty Kat

Is nude go-go dancing protected expression under the First Amendment?

“Pasties” don’t often appear in the same sentence as “U.S. Supreme Court,” but they were part of the sideshow in 1991, when the Rehnquist Court heard arguments in the case of Barnes v. Glen Theatre.

The oral arguments are heard verbatim in “Arguendo,” the latest work from Elevator Repair Service, which brought us the remarkable “Gatz.”

The title is a legal term meaning “for the sake of argument,” which the Justices used in their often humorous grilling of the lawyers pleading the case.

When an Indiana prosecutor says the law reasonably prevents a man from walking into a bookstore naked, Justice Antonin Scalia counters that “he can evidently sing in an opera without his clothes on” and wonders “how does one draw the line between, uh, ‘Salome’ and the Kitty Kat Lounge?”

Scalia’s skepticism makes the outcome -- a 5-4 decision upholding the ban -- worthy of the drama.

Cover Up

Director John Collins’s production has grown gaudier and sillier since I wrote about it in a workshop last January. It devolves into a circus complete with male nudity and a public crack-up that undermines the proceedings, though it works as farce.

Five actors mix and match roles, which can be confusing (different actors play Scalia, for example). Especially when designers David Zinn (set), Ben Rubin (projections) and Mark Barton (lighting) swamp the proceedings with images of words, words, words.

Bad decision for a company where those words matter supremely.

Through Oct. 13 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Information: +1-212-967-7555; http://www.publictheater.org. Rating: ***1/2


What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include movies and New York Weekend.

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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