If you’re in town this weekend, take the kids and catch the hit musical strutting its stuff at LYRIC STAGE which has extended its run of “THE WIZ” til July 1! The 1975 classic which added soul to “The Wizard of Oz” and walked away with seven Tony Awards, is now easin’ on down the road with a terrific local cast: Salome Smith is an earnest warm-voiced Dorothy who leaves her sweet Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (Damon Singletary) and befriends a trio of misfits seeking their missing parts: Steven Martin is the cool, heartless Tinman, Elle Borders is the charming but brainless Scarecrow, and a hilarious Brandon G. Green is a funky ole mean Lion.
Doing dynamic double duty is Carolyn Saxon as Aunt Em and Glinda, while Yewande Odetoyinbo burns down the house as Addaperle and Evilene, powerhouses both. Davron S. Monroe is perfect as the flamboyant, hapless Wiz himself who hasn’t a clue how to get Dorothy home– but somehow doesn’t lead her astray either.
Neither does the director. Though the first scene was sluggish with the actors seemingly frozen to their marks, director Dawn M. Simmons suddenly kicks this thing into high gear with inventive staging involving all parts of the theater, a rambunctiously choreographed (Juanita Pearl, Dance Captain) ensemble, and a live orchestra that doesn’t miss a beat. Extended by popular demand through July 1— And bring the family: KIDS 18 AND UNDER $20.00 OFF!
Elsewhere a tragedy of cryptic proportions: Arthur Miller, the monumental American playwright who gave us DEATH OF A SALESMAN and ALL MY SONS could not acknowledge his own son— the abiding central tragedy of his life. This painful, sad, and hidden family saga is finely acted and tenderly rendered in FALL, but remains frustratingly obscure.
Written by journalist/playwright Bernard Weinraub, FALL uncovers the story of Arthur Miller’s son Daniel, his child born with Down syndrome to Arthur and third wife photographer Inge Morath. Following the custom of the times, Daniel’s parents took professional advice and placed him in an institution. The hidden conditions there would eventually be the final nails in their coffins. Miller and Morath seldom visited, Miller not at all. Miller also never mentions Daniel in his autobiography, nor was Daniel mentioned in either parent’s obituary.
Straightforwardly directed by Peter Dubois, the play unfolds, scene by scene with the simple facts, and the unsimple reaction to them. The play opens and closes with Daniel alone on stage as an adult, played by a vulnerable, eloquent Nolan James Tierce from Newton, MA!. Then the action rolls back before he was born. The fact of him, the whole positive human being that he is, and the life raft he might have been for a father adrift in the dark– was never seen clearly by his parents or society at the time.
There is almost no analysis of the source of the pain Miller felt at learning of his son’s physical circumstances. I wanted more. We see Miller’s suffering, then his retreat from it; alongside his social conscience and artistry, we also see a capacity for greed in his betrayal of longtime colleague producer Robert Whitehead (John Hickok). His second wife Marilyn Monroe casts a long shadow over the action, as everyone bobs and weaves around their curiosity about her. Miller, obsessed, continues to write for her and then deny that certain characters are based on her at all. Josh Stamberg ably conjures up the playwright minus some warmth–he is an opaque Arthur Miller, tall, diffident, and damaged. But we never know what makes him tick.
Joanne Kelly as his exuberant wife Inge Morath is the “anti-Marilyn,” slim, dark and bobbed, sophisticated and articulate in narrow dark pants and oversized shirts. She straddles the world between son and husband, her photographer’s eye recording all. She’s continually walking an emotional and logistical tightrope between what her child needs and what her husband wants. She, however, is nowhere to be found. But Kelly is a deft actress, fleshing out as best she can a woman who will also take secrets to the grave.
The sets suggesting the couple’s city lives are spare and surrounded by space; Daniel might have filled that void. But their country house is dreamy and layered, promisingly so, when in the climactic moments all of their lives, inner and outer, intersect.
The contradiction between Miller’s public life as an artist and his private moral blindness is almost inconceivable. The themes Miller so exquisitely and humanely detailed in his work about the crimes of fathers revisited on sons, about the legacy of moral failings on the anatomy of a family– make his inability to see through his son’s anatomy to his son’s humanity, a tragedy at the heart of Miller’s darkness. It would take a less dutiful playwright than Bernard Weinraub to chart this descent, jump in, and let himself fall.
FALL now onstage at the Huntington’s South End/Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA through June 16.