London Theater Puts New York in the Shadows

By Linda Joffee, | The Christian Science Monitor, January 13, 1992 | Go to article overview

London Theater Puts New York in the Shadows


Linda Joffee,, The Christian Science Monitor


'THERE is still excitement in the air there," Arthur Miller recently stated publicly, when asked why he was premiering his first major work in more than a decade in London rather than New York.

For years America's greatest living playwright has been decrying the decline of what he and many of his theater colleagues see as a destructive combination of forces on Broadway: soaring production costs that lead to commercial sensibilities reigning supreme; TV-weened audiences with decreasing attention spans; and the tyranny of a single newspaper critic who can make or break a show overnight.

London's West End theater climate is, to be sure, different. While there are strains that stem from the difficult economic times right now, an upbeat mood prevails. For starters, production costs are lower, and a show almost never closes immediately after it has opened.

With the plethora of drama critics in this city and a large theatergoing public - 7.4 million people visited shows in the first six months of 1991, according to the Society of West End Theatres - word-of-mouth remains the final arbiter. Indeed, it is not unknown for a show that takes a drubbing from the critics to go on to enjoy enormous success Les Miserables" being a prime example.

It is also true that the "excitement," as Mr. Miller puts it, surrounding the prospect of a serious play - as well as a musical - can still be summoned with relative ease. The electrically charged anticipation preceding the world premiere of Miller's "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan," at the Wyndham's Theatre, is a good case in point. It's a pity, therefore, that the show itself didn't quite measure up. "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" is not another "Death of a Salesman" or "The Crucible." That isn't to say it's a dud. But classic in stature it's not. As such, Miller was right to premiere it here. In New York, it would probably have already been relegated to history; in this city the show continues to do respectable business.

The subject is bigamy. The underlying theme, however, is the inherent conflict between instincts and socially inculcated mores - between the atavistic "animal" part of us and higher urges. Miller also brings in the food-for-thought notion that, with the loosening of long-established moral strictures in many spheres, there is little left to turn to for guidance except such instinct.

"Socialism is dead and so is Christianity," opines one of his characters. "All that is left is simplicity."

The show opens with protagonist Lyman Felt (Tom Conti), a successful New York insurance salesman, who has raced his Porsche on a snowy winter's night down a mountain road only to crash and end up bandaged from head to foot.

His wife and daughter have been notified by the hospital, as has the other Mrs. Lyman; that the hospital does not question the existence of two spouses is one of many loose ends in the play. In the waiting room, the women gradually come to the realization that they are, and have been for a number of years, married to one and the same Porsche crasher. Another side of Miller

Miller employs an uncharacteristic degree of humor throughout the show. Initially, this is disappointing. Even the inherently farcical topic of bigamy has only so much humorous mileage in it. Moreover, the TV sitcom-style jokes are funny, but not quite funny enough. Whether Mr. Conti, a highly accomplished British actor of stage and film ("Reuben, Reuben"; "Shirley Valentine") is just too caricatured and laid back for the part or for Miller's script, it is hard to tell. One-liners aside, there are some deeper observations that keep the play afloat. And by the end it's clear that the work is a jeremiad on the widespread moral poverty of the 1990s: Without a strong guiding framework, suggests Miller, human beings tend to either fall back on the pursuit of personal pleasure or simply let knee-jerk social convention fashion their views of what's right and wrong. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

London Theater Puts New York in the Shadows
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.