Art, said Tennessee Williams on Christmas Eve 1944, “is experience remembered in tranquility. And I find no tranquility in Chicago.” But the playwright’s preopening jitters were dispelled when the city warmly embraced The Glass Menagerie, which opened at the Civic Theatre two days later in a pre-Broadway tryout. Williams’s first major triumph was heralded in Claudia Cassidy’s famous Tribune review: “If it is your play, as it is mine, it reaches out . . . and you are caught in its spell.” Celeste Holm was certainly caught: when she saw the original Menagerie in New York in 1945, the musical-comedy ingenue (the first Ado Annie in Oklahoma!) found her appetite whetted to play Amanda, the clinging, memory-haunted mother of a neurotically shy daughter and a rebellious writer son in this autobiographical yet universal American masterpiece. Now the Classic American Theatre is giving the Broadway and Hollywood veteran her first crack at the role in its production commemorating the show’s 50th anniversary. CAT producer Thomas Marshall’s track record of reviving great plays and musicals is marked by consistently high quality and an intelligent balance of historical reverence and dramatic immediacy. This production, a staged reading to benefit CAT, is especially promising: it also features three fine local actors–Lia Mortenson and Si Osborne as Amanda’s children and John Mossman as the gentleman caller–and live incidental music by the wonderful fiddler Miriam Sturm, all under the direction of Suzanne Petri. Apollo Theater Center, 2540 N. Lincoln, 281-5859. Monday, April 18, 8 PM. $35 in advance; $50 at the door.