CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


A CurtainUp Feature: Playwrights
An Overview of Arthur Miller's Career

2016- Arthur Miller's Centennial Year
If Arthur Miller were still with us in this centennial year of his birth, I think he would be especially pleased to see the Signature Theater's wonderful revival of Incident at Vichy. The 2016 revival was a specal revelation for theatergoers below a certain age. The drama did have a Broadway premiere at the now defunct ANTA Theater in 1964 but for just 32 performances. Miller adapted the play for television, which featured Rene Auberjonois as Monceau the actor and Harris Yulin as LeDuc the doctor, but that was back in 1973. No doubt, if he could have seen all these celebratory productions Miller would also have been intrigued with the high profile British-cast Broadway revival of A View From the Bridge. . . .also the Audiences Castillo Theater's presentation of the famous Death of a Salesman.

The operatic View. . . has been tagged as a Miller classic and as such has enjoyed frequent productions but none like the one that marked the Broadway debut of Belgian director Ivo Van Hove who's noted for his bold deconstructionist approach to classic plays. His production thus had neither scenery, props or costumes, but plenty of emotional fireworks. This new Broadway darling had a second Broadway outing in the same season season— a riveting new version of The Crucible

Actually the now famous and often produced View. . . wasn't an instant hit. Its first permutation was as a one-act verse drama entitled A Memory of Two Mondays which flopped, prompting Miller to turn out a 2-act revision. The current version's British credentials are especially valid given that the 2-act revival first premiered in London's West End under the direction of Peter Brook. It's this version that's the one with which audiences are most familiar today. The Vanhovian approach's chief reinvention is to present the story with completely naturalistic, almost cinematic, performances but framed non-naturalistically (Don't look for the original Brooklyn setting). Still, outstanding as the cast is, the actors have their work cut out for them in terms of speaking authentically and consistently with American accents. The on stage seats, not original with Van Hove, are likely to be extremely popular even when they're no longer lower-priced as was the case during previews.

Links to all the above mentioned plays as well as other productions covered at Curtainup in the "Plays Reviewed section of the following list of Topics Covered
Personal Statistics
Trademarks Of Miller Plays
Plays Reviewed
Books You Might Want to Read
Quotes From Plays

Personal Statistics
Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was in Manhattan's Harlem section the middle child of 3. The family roots were Polish-Jewish. Miller's father owned a successful women's clothing manufacturing business that supported the family's home on 110th Street as well as a summer home In Far Rockaway, Queens. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended the family's wealth. Miller worked part-time, menial jobs though high school.

He wrote his first place while at the University of Michigan, switched frm Journalism to English which won him the Avery Hopwood Award and felt he might have a future as a playwright. After his graduation in 1938, he joined the Federal Theater Project, a New Deal agency that provided jobs in the theater.

He continued on a prolific playwriting career and also wrote essays, screen plays and a memoir. His had a highly visible public presence-- courtesy of his Pulitzer, marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He was previously married to Grace Slattery and his death to Inge Morath. His chidre: Rebecca Miller, Jane Ellen Miller, Robert A. Miller, Daniel Miller



Trademarks Of Miller's Plays
In an interview after his first big success (All My Sons), Miller declared that "In all my plays and books I try to take settings and dramatic situations from life which involve real questions of right and wrong." Following are key dramatic devices used to achieve this mission:
  • The idealist who pays too much for his inability to compromise. All My Sons' Chris Keller's insists on dredging up a past that holds unbearable truths. Victor Frank in The Price, sacrificed his career dreams to support his father but his virtue has brought the additional cost of resentment and the crippling inability to move forward when given the opportunity.
  • The Great Depression. The Great depression bankrupted Miller's father in real life, Victor Frank's father in The Price, the dozens of individuals and families who wander through the scenes of The American Clock. In All My Sons, the small time industrialist Joe Keller extricates himself from the cusp of late Depression bankruptcy by wartime profiteering.
  • The theme of man's responsibility to his fellow man. This was most strongly expressed in All My Sons, where one man's greed haunts him in the worst possible way -- in the death of his son.
  • The Guilt of the survivor. Chris Keller, unlike his father, bears no responsibility for the death of his brother and other victims of the war. Yet he is haunted by the fact that he's alive while others died.. This theme of the guilt of those who escape, dates back to the playwright's first play (and instant flop), The Man Who Had All the Luck and recurs in After the Fall.
  • An ordinary man's tragedy doubling as symbol of a larger societal flaw. The story of Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman is a realistic drama about one man's downfall on one level. On a broader symbolic level it is also an examination of the delusions attendant on the pursuit of the American dream. A View From the Bridge updates the Greek tragic mode to depict the downfall of a Brooklyn dock worker--taken in the context of its time, the 1950s, some audiences also saw the play as a metaphor for the betrayals associated with such colleagues as Elia Kazan to the the House Un-American Activities committee's (HUAC) investigation of Communists in government. Even more specific to those days of Communist witch hunting was The Crucible which probably escaped being dated precisely because Miller set it in a long-ago historic time frame.
  • A Penchant for Big Operatic Speeches.
  • Sometimes you could actually hear music playing -- and with several of his plays, The Crucible (Robert Ward) and A View from the Bridge, (William Bolcomb) those "arias" actually inspired operas.

Back to the top

Plays Reviewed
This list of Arthur Miller's plays we've reviewed since launching CurtainUp is not frozen and we will add to it periodically.
Broken Glass (London 2011)
Incident at Vichy (Actors Company, 2009)
View from the Bridge (Broadway 2015)
View from the Bridge (London 2014)
A View From the Bridge (London 2014)
View From the Bridge(Broadway 2010)
A View From the Bridge (London 2009)
A View From the Bridge(Roundabout 1997)
Some Kind of Love Story(Los Angeles 2008)
After the Fall(Broadway-2004)
After the Fall(Los Angeles)
The Crucible (2016 Broadway)
The Crucible (London 2014)
The Crucible (Broadway Revival)
The Crucible (Hartford Stage 2011)
The Crucible (Steppenwolf-Chicago, 2007)
The Creation of the World and Other Business
The Man Who Had All the Luck (New York)
The Man Who Had All the Luck (2008 London)
The Price in the Berkshires and NY
All My Sons (London 2014)
All My Sons (Barrington Stage 2012)
All My Sons/ Arthur Miller(London 2010)
All My Sons (2008 Broadway Revival)
All My Sons in NY and London
The American Clock
Death of a Salesman (Philadelphia 2014)
Death of a Salesmanr(Broadway 2012)
Death Of a Salesman (1999) Salesman --- Second Thoughts
Death Of a Salesman (London-2005)
Resurrection Blues (Philadelphia)
Resurrection Blues (London)
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan in the Berkshires and NY
Mr. Peter's Connections
A View From the Bridge and Second Thoughts
The Last Yankee& I Can't Remember Anything (with Joseph Chaikin)


Books You Might Want to Read
Miller's plays and other writings are widely anthologized . This is a selection of the ones we think fans and students would find most
Conversations With Miller by Mel Gussow
The Portable Arthur Miller. Penguin, 1995, 575 pp. This update of an earlier edition was compiled by the playwright and Christopher Bigsby, a Miller scholar. It's a good cross-section of Miller's 60-year career. Included in full are The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and Broken Glass; also unpublished early works and a newly found radio play.

A View From the Bridge. Viking paperback, 1987. With the play enjoying one of its most dynamic productions ever at the Roundabout, (see link to reviewed plays above), we included this for people who like to read a play before or after seeing a play as well as those who for one reason or another can't get to this revival.

The Last Yankee: With a New Essay About Theatre Language. Penguin paperback, 98 pp, 1994.Not one of Miller's best-known plays but we've included it since it's the second Miller play to be featured in the Signature Theater's 1997-98 season.

Timebends : A Life. Penguin, 1995. This is the paperback edition of Miller's very readable autobiography. It moves from his childhood at the edge of Harlem through his life and career, failures and successes-- and includes plenty of portraits of famous people who played walk-on and major parts in his life; to name just a few: Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, Lucky Luciano, Clark Gable, Tennessee Williams, John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev. . . Penguin Audio Book edition (2 Cassettes).

The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller Da Capo (paperback), 1996. This reprint edition is packed with a wealth of essays including "Tragedy and the Common Man," "The Nature of Tragedy". . ." Salesman Has a Birthday". . . "Many Writers: Few Plays". . . "Journey to The &"The American Theater&". . ."On Social Plays". . ."The Family in Modern Drama". Also included are the introduction to the original edition (by Robert A. Martin), this expanded Edition (by Steven R. Centola) and a foreword by the playwright titled "Sorting Things Out." A good value.

Arthur Miller in Conversation. Contemporary Research Press, paperback, 1993. This lengthy interview between Steve Centola and Arthur Miller provides the playwright with ample opportunity to voice his views on playwriting, the state of the theater and the acting profession. Centola is clearly an admirer and a fine interviewer. The title isn't likely to be found in your neighborhood book store but it is available to those prepared to wait for their order to be filled.

Homely Girl, a Life : And Other Stories. Penguin paperback, 128 pp, 1997. In his long conversation with Stephen Centola, Miller spoke about his disaffection with playwriting and intention to do more fiction. This collection of short stories, is newly anthologized but not newly written. The stories are worth reading but it should be noted that writers who've built their reputation on the short story (i.e. Pritchett) or short stories and novels (Updike) tend to focus for many years on these particular forms. Thus, this book is more interesting for showing another side of Miller, than as a launching point for a short-story writing career. When you think of Miller, it's still going to be in terms of his plays.
Back to the top

Quotes From Miller Plays
A little man makes a mistake and they hang him by the thumbs; the big ones become ambassadors
--Joe Keller in Act 2, All My Sons.

Once and for all you must know that there's a universe of people outside, and you're responsible to it. --Chris Keller (to his mother) in Act 3, All My Sons

Since God made everything, and God is Good, why did he make Lucifer?---Arthur Miller


He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person
-- Linda Loman, Act 1, Death of a Salesman.

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!
Willy, Act 2, Death of a Salesman.

(A Salesman) He's a man way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back--that's an earthquake!
Charley, Requiem, Death of a Salesman.

There are times when you want to spread an alarm, but nothing has happened —-Alfieri, A View from the Bridge, Act 1.

The only thing you can do today without a license is you'll go up the elevator and jump out the window --Gregory Solomon in The Price, Act 1 Solomon, the character who brings the play its light touch, thus amplifies his statement that he is both registered and licensed as an appraiser

He allowed himself to be wholly known --Alfieri in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Act 2.

Back to Top






Search CurtainUp in the box below Back to Curtainup Main Page

PLAYWRIGHTS' ALBUM INDEX

Edward Albee
Annie Baker
Samuel Beckett
Anton Chekhov
Horton Foote
Brian Friel
Henrik Ibsen
David Mamet
Arthur Miller
Eugene O'Neill
Suzan-Lori Parks
Harold Pinter
G. Bernard Shaw
Sam Shepard
Tom Stoppard
Wendy Wasserstein
August Wilson


©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com