You know the timeless and classy phrase: “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”
That life nugget came through to me loud and clear after seeing Redtwist‘s respectable production of Arther Miller’s Broken Glass (playing through Nov. 18).
I enjoy Miller. The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge — all brilliant, potent works. I’d never heard of Broken Glass prior to Redtwist’s production, so I looked forward to discovering a “new” Miller play (and one of his more recent ones, written in 1994).
At intermission, I felt nonplussed and a little confused. At the curtain call, I couldn’t get out of Redtwist’s intimate storefront space fast enough.
This was Arthur Miller?
Set in 1939 Brooklyn, Broken Glass focuses on a Jewish woman named Sylvia (courageously played by Jacqueline Grandt) who has suffered a mysterious and sudden paralysis after reading about the attacks on Jews throughout Nazi Germany in the papers. The powerful themes of American Jewish guilt, fear, helplessness, and the sacrifices of assimilation to avoid antisemitism were not lost on me. It was just the overall delivery of those messages — the cheap, overwrought, false melodrama — left me feeling manipulated and dirty. For example, Sylvia’s creepily concerned doctor (an overly mannered Michael Colucci) says things to Sylvia’s disorientated husband, Phillip (the appropriately high-strung Neal Grofman), like, “A woman who isn’t loved can get very disorientated.” And then we learn that (SPOILER!) Sylvia and Phillip haven’t had relations in 20 years. Gasp!
Cut to a scene with the Dr. hanging by Sylvia’s bedside, fighting his urge to love her, while she pleads for him to “stay and talk.” And in walks Phillip to see the goings on! GASP!
What is this? A Lifetime movie? Miller, you’re better than this.
The only real moment that feels genuine and raw is when Phillip confronts his snobby-yacht-club-membership-toting boss about a deal gone wrong which has cost Phillip his career — a career he’s devoted his entire life and identity to. But at that point, it’s essentially second-rate Salesman.
I won’t even give away the ending, but it was exactly what I expected (and hoped it wouldn’t be).
So, leaving the theater, I felt pretty confident this was one of the weakest plays I’ve seen in some time, and I suspected the reason it’s so rarely produced is because it’s Miller-lite. I didn’t fault Miller. I mean, every distinguished artist has their low points. For every Sweeney there’s a Road Show. For every Streetcar there’s a Sweet Bird. However, in my research, I learned that Broken Glass was nominated for a “Best Play” Tony Award in 1994 and received mostly glowing reviews from major papers when it premiered on Broadway and in the West End.
Did we see the same play? Granted, it could be the production, but I don’t think Redtwist’s effort is the problem here. While the production has some flaws, it isn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination.
Is it just me? Is my opinion just smelly?