Philip Seymour Hoffman is too young to play Willy Loman, the worn-out failure in Mike Nichols’s new revival of Arthur Miller’s masterful tragedy Death of a Salesman. Despite his drooped posture, crippling exhaustion and inability to stand proud—not to mention his preppie haircut, white as snow—he often looks no older than the two actors playing his sons. Still, he’s such an inventive and resourceful young character actor that he is never less than fascinating. To paraphrase the most famous line in the play, attention must still be paid.
Thank goodness Mr. Nichols is so obviously respectful of this high-water mark in American theater that he is reluctant to change, modify or jazz it up in any way to suit contemporary audiences. He has even restored much of Jo Mielziner’s moody set design, Alex North’s somber music and Elia Kazan’s electrifying direction from the original 1949 Broadway production starring the incomparably powerful Lee J. Cobb—all to brilliant effect, illuminating a sad, deeply analytical portrait of the death of the American Dream. And if Mr. Hoffman is not Lee J. Cobb or even Brian Dennehy in the latest Broadway revival, he serves the play in an oddly benevolent way.
It’s a thankless task, being the father in an Arthur Miller play—always a failed salesman or a suicidal military-parts manufacturer. So, too, for Eddie, the paterfamilias uncle in A View From the Bridge, who has a hard job as a Brooklyn longshoreman, a devoted but nagging wife and a lovely young orphan niece who’s growing Read More
By Christopher Bigsby
Harvard University Press, 776 pages, $35
Christopher Bigsby is a premier Arthur Miller scholar, with 20 years of direct access to his subject, to Miller’s family, and to the Miller archive to his credit. But comprehensive this biography surely is not. Who besides the Miller clan did Mr. Bigsby interview? Read More
Simon McBurney, the avant-garde theater director, is the only director I’ve ever seen to take a bow not only after his own shows, but before. It wasn’t always so in the earlier days of Complicité, his London-based troupe with the French name. But the more successful Mr. McBurney has become, the more his vanity has Read More
First Katie Holmes tackles Tom, then childbirth. Next up, the Great White Way? Ms. Holmes may emerge from her post-Suri cocoon to flutter onto a Broadway stage next season. The Dawson’s Creek star is in negotiations to appear in a revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons. The play is based on Read More
One day while still a young actor, Elia Kazan was standing on a street corner with his good friend, Martin Ritt, another young actor. Across the street were two pretty young women. Ritt suggested that he and Kazan go over and talk to them. “No point,” Kazan said. “They wouldn’t want anything to do with Read More
Some people are good at what they do. Other people are better. Bobby Short was the best. Preserving the art of the Great American Songbook was his life’s work, and nobody did more for the cause. When cabaret queen Mabel Mercer, his friend and sometime musical partner, died in 1984, he remarked sadly, “Half of Read More
Two familiar politicians will spend the better part of this year raising money and rallying support for an election which they hope will revive their careers.
Both Andrew Cuomo and Mark Green want to be New York’s next State Attorney General. Why? Well, because it’s there-the job, that is. With incumbent Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Read More
Perhaps we all felt we knew Arthur Miller, for to know a man’s plays is to be on friendly terms with the man. I wouldn’t pretend to have known Miller personally, but we met a number of times and talked by phone, and each time I was left with a pleasurable insight into him.
For Read More
Arthur Miller’s 1964 After
the Fall is one of those troubled plays that has been rarely staged and
widely discussed. An artistic failure when it launched the unfulfilled dream of
a Lincoln Center Repertory Company in 1964, the play became notorious for Mr.
Miller’s characterization of his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe in the central role of Read More