Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Rep Theatre Opens Its Season With The Stunning "Broken Glass" by Arthur Miller

As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of playwright Arthur Miller, New Rep Theatre has inaugurated its season with one of Miller's lesser known works: "Broken Glass."  The play is a brilliant examination on multiple levels of issues of identity, self-image, self-loathing, Jewish identity, love and marriage, sexual dysfunction and the pervasive influence of evil.

When I asked Director Jim Petosa why this brilliant play is not more well known in America, he explained that Miller wrote the play late in his career.  By this time, Miller's name had been linked to the McCarthy witch hunt and his marriage to Marilyn Monroe had failed. The American public was pretty much done with Miller. But they loved him in England, and "Broken Glass" won an Olivier Award when it played in London.

The action of the play is set in motion around the events of Kristallnacht in 1938. Sylvia Gellburg (Anne Gottlieb)reads of the events, and internalizes the threat and becomes hysterically paralyzed. Her husband, Phillip (Jeremiah Kissel) becomes alarmed and calls in Dr. Harry Hyman (Benjamin Evett) to find a cure for his wife's paralysis.  Complications ensue as the lives of each of the principals prove to be as fragile as the shopkeepers' windows in Germany. The excellent cast is completed with Harriet (Christine Hamel), Stanton Case (Michael Kaye) and Margaret (Eve Passeltiner.

This is classic Miller at work.  There are elements in Phillip that reminded me of Willy Loman. This is a heart-breaking story with many layers.  Sylvia longs to be loved by her husband, and is drawn to the caring and womanizing Dr. Hyman. An over-arcing theme of the play is made explicit when the question is asked: "Why does it have to be such hard work to be Jewish?"  Phillip is as paralyzed in his struggle to accept his Jewishness as is Sylvia.  She cannot move physically; he cannot move emotionally.

Jon Savage has designed a very effective set with Sylvia's bed at the center - later to be occupied by Phillip - and the seating areas revolving around that central bed.  Costumes by Molly Trainer, Lighting by Scott Pinkney and Sound by David Remedios complete the effect of a 1930's home and office.

Mr. Kissel and Ms. Gottlieb are outstanding in the complexity of their portrayal of these haunted husband and wife. Jim Petosa's direction builds the tension slowly, peaking at a moment of explosion that leaves the audience shaken.

This is brilliant writing, perfectly executed by the artists at New Rep.

The play run through this weekend, September 27.  This Boston area premiere of Miller's important work should be seen.

New Rep Website



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