For theatergoers who don’t happen to be seated in the third row of “The Glass Menagerie,” take it from those who sat up close: In the intimate new Broadway production starring Sally Field, the horn of that glass unicorn really does break off in the Tennessee Williams play’s memorable final scene.
Well, most of the time.
“I don’t want to give away too much of the magic,” said co-star Finn Wittrock at the show’s opening night afterparty at Sardi’s March 9. The actor (“La La Land,” “American Horror Story”) appears in “Menagerie” as Jim, more commonly known as the Gentleman Caller, the character who accidentally break the fragile animal. “The unicorn is really very fancy plastic, and I think the horn has a special mechanism that makes it fall off. But some nights it doesn’t. So I have a very sneaky trick where I break off the horn, unbeknownst to anyone in the world, just before I hold it up to the candlelight. If the horn falls off, we know that it’s a really good show — and if it doesn’t, it’s like an okay show,” he added with a laugh. “It fell off tonight.”
Wittrock plays the scene opposite newcomer Madison Ferris, only the second actor who uses a wheelchair to appear in a full Broadway production (after Ali Stroker in 2015), and the first to play a starring role. “When I saw the audition notice for the part, I wanted it — I wanted it more than anything,” she said at the afterparty. “I knew I could do it and I wanted it badly, but I was pessimistic.”
That’s because she was halfway around the world at the time, on a working holiday visa in Australia. She sent in a video recorded in her Sydney apartment; the woman reading Amanda Wingfield’s lines had a thick Australian accent. “It was just so sh–ty,” she recalled of the clip. “I was sure they were going to give the part to someone who showed up, so I was very surprised and excited when they asked if I could come in and do a callback. Less than 48 hours later, I was on a plane.”
The revival of “Glass Menagerie” opened the day after International Women’s Day, when a lot of women went on strike for A Day Without A Woman — but not on Broadway, where most productions played two shows: a matinee and an evening performance.
“I was in the theater from 11:30 in the morning until I left at 11 o’clock at night,” said Field, who in January spoke at the inauguration eve protest organized by Michael Moore and Mark Ruffalo. “But my heart is there with those women, and all I can say is it’s important to be doing the arts right now, and to be speaking Tennessee Williams’ words. Because perhaps in a Trump-invented world, Tennessee Williams wouldn’t be allowed to exist.”