“Broken Glass” (Westport Country Playhouse)
By Susan Granger
Westport Country Playhouse concludes its 2015 season with this respectful revival, celebrating the centennial of the birth of playwright Arthur Miller, who lived in Roxbury, Connecticut, for many years.
Set in November, 1938, it evokes Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in Germany, when Nazi mobs burned synagogues and looted stores belonging to Jews, forcing the elderly to scrub the streets with toothbrushes.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, New York, Philip Gelberg (Steven Skybell) is concerned about a strange paralysis that has suddenly afflicted his wife, Sylvia (Felicity Jones). For the past two weeks, she has been unable to stand, walk or feel anything but numbness in her legs.
After running a full battery of tests, attentive Dr. Harry Hyman (Stephen Schnetzer) concludes that Sylvia’s problem is psychological. To that end, he quizzes Philip about their sexual relationship and begins visiting bedridden Sylvia at home, much to the chagrin of his wary nurse/wife (Angela Reed).
In talking with fragile Sylvia, Dr. Hyman realizes that she’s obsessed with brutal Nazi oppression of Jews in Germany. And that neither she nor Philip have been intimate or honest with each other for many years, an observation confirmed by Sylvia’s sister (Merritt Janson).
Felicity Jones is subtly riveting as the emotionally vulnerable wife, while Steven Skybell embodies the anger, frustration, and resentment of a Jew coping with an anti-Semitic boss (John Hillner) in WASP-dominated banking. Propelling the complexity of the plot, Stephen Schnetzer epitomizes an empathetic physician trying to unravel the cause of his patient’s mysterious malady.
Under Mark Lamos’s astute direction, this intense, affecting play runs for 90 minutes without an intermission. Written in 1994, it’s one of Arthur Miller’s lesser-known works and his only exploration of the conflicts inherent in Jewish/American identity. Its world premiere was at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater before a brief Broadway run, starring Amy Irving, David Dukes, Ron Rifkin, and Frances Conway.
Michael Yeargan’s abstract set of shard-like, reflective glass panels is stunning, as are Candice Donnelly’s period costumes, Stephen Strawbridge’s lighting and David Butler’s sound.
You can see “Broken Glass” through Oct. 24 at the Westport Country Playhouse. For tickets, call 203-227-4177 or online at