Director Gordon Edelstein's dynamic, iconoclastic revival of Tennessee Williams' revered, 1944 memory play arrives at the Mark Taper Forum trailing a tempest of controversy. Edelstein's greatest liberty and, to traditionalists, his most brazen and polarizing sacrilege is to reconceive the narrative from the point of view of an older, more worldly Tom Wingfield (a riveting Patch Darragh) in the act of writing the play. Tom's famous "tricks in my pocket" opening monologue is now delivered at the typewriter, haltingly, the words captured in the moment of inspiration on Michael Yeargan's austerely appointed, wallpaper-scrim, one-room set that doubles for the Wingfield's St. Louis tenement apartment. The conceit may not be strictly Williams, but by foregrounding the action with this potent reminder of the autobiographical dimensions lurking behind the drama, Edelstein succeeds in repainting the bittersweet Wingfield family portrait as a fascinating portrait of the artist in which Williams' alter ego, Tom, shares center stage. As such, Judith Ivey's matriarch, Amanda, is nothing short of a triumph. In Ivey's hands, the smothering, narcissistic, faded Southern belle is energized with heretofore unrealized notes of wit and charm just the sort of overpowering personality capable of crushing a fragile, sensitive ego like Laura (the fine Keira Keeley) or igniting the artistic genius of her more resilient son. The payoff to Edelstein's invention comes in the "gentleman caller" scene, whose original pathos is delivered with the additional ironic wink that all three Wingfields are vying for the romantic attentions of the lunkheaded Jim (Ben McKenzie). Jennifer Tipton's moody, low-key lighting and Martin Pakledinaz's outstanding costumes complete what may not be an orthodox Menagerie but one that may just be definitive. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 17. (213) 628-2772.
Sun., Sept. 12, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 12. Continues through Oct. 17, 2010