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OK, the scenery first. You’ve got your standard mid-Depression apartment complete with fire escape and desperation, some fuzzy lighting which Williams claims is to create a "memory scene," a big transparent wall blocking the audience’s view to start, a living room and dining room, and this picture of a guy in a World War I hat, smiling. He’s the absent father. Oh yes, and a typewriter. For kicks.
Enter Tom Wingfield, dressed as a "merchant sailor" and smoking.
Turns out the entire play is his memory recreated for us.
Tom’s speech is full of lots of lovely, pedantic metaphors.
Tom lets us know that his Dad peaced out on them when Tom and his sister Laura were little and sent a postcard that said, "Hello—Goodbye!"
Did we mention that there’s this theatrical device that Williams invented for this play – a big fancy technological thing otherwise known as a "screen"? Words and images get projected onto it. In this first scene, such words happen to be "Ou sont les neiges."
That phrase is from the title of a poem called "Ou sont les neiges d’antan," which means "where are the snows of yesteryear." So Williams’s screen just says "where are the snows." You know, because it’s warm in that room.
Amanda (Tom’s mother) annoys Tom at the table with etiquette rules about elbows and not picking his nose.
Tom retaliates by shouting and then leaving. In other words, aggression for dinner followed by a lovely little passive aggressive tart for dessert.
Amanda gives the classic "back in the good old days" speech, only she focuses on herself having been a Paris Hilton-esque socialite instead of bread costing twenty cents a loaf.
In case you missed it, the image of Amanda as a young socialite is projected on the screen.
Then, because Williams realized he left a word off the first time, the screen now says "Ou sont les neiges d’antan." And if you were wondering, the French still means "where are the snows of yesteryear."
Amanda expresses not-so-subtly that Laura ought to have some "gentlemen callers." And that she should type on the typewriter.
We almost forgot. There’s this little, light, circus-y tune called "The Glass Menagerie" that gets played every once in a while, usually when the audience is looking at Laura.