PLAYWRIGHT ARTHUR MILLER CELEBRATED AT WESTPORT

 

BONNIE GOLDBERG

The Westport Country Playhouse is honoring the prolific and well respected playwright Arthur Miller, who lived in Roxbury, Connecticut for many years, on the occasion of what would have been his hundredth birthday. To salute his gifts to twentieth century American theater, the Playhouse is mounting a production of his intense play "Broken Glass," until Saturday, October 24.

In the Jewish religion, the marriage ceremony takes place under a canopy, or chuppah, and includes many prayers and blessings. It culminates with the groom stomping on a cloth-covered glass, shattering it, a tradition that has many interpretations. One is that we remember the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, to note that there is sadness even in times of great joy. Marriage can be as fragile as glass and love must be protected. The hope is also that a marriage will last as long as it would take to repair the broken glass and make it whole again.

For Sylvia Gellburg, the broken glass has another meaning: it conjures up the brutal images of Jews in Germany being persecuted by the Nazis during Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass," on November 9, 1938. As Sylvia reads about these horrors in the newspaper, she internalizes them and through her fears finds she is paralyzed and cannot walk. Felicity Jones' Sylvia is overwhelmed by this disturbing new medical issue and in her conversations with her worshipful husband Phillip (Steven Skybell), her caring sister Harriet (Merritt Janson), her incredibly solicitous doctor (Steven Schnetzer) and even his wife Margaret (Angela Reed), we learn that her obvious symptoms have a long history.

Phillip and Sylvia have a marriage that is equally as paralyzing as her legs. Their problems with intimacy are decades in the making. Phillip, while professing great love for his wife, is conflicted about many issues. He is proud of their son, the only Jewish captain in the military at West Point, and his position as the valued Jew at his mortgage company, run by Stanton Case (John Hillner). Yet he sabotages himself with his mixed messages of pride and guilt. Mark Lamos directs this dark play which comes across like an intense session with a psychiatrist.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Go online to view a complete calendar of special community events to honor Arthur Miller at One Hundred.

Miller is quoted as saying, "Maybe all we can do is hope to end up with the right regrets." Come discover how Sylvia and Phillip might respond to that challenge.

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