Written in 1940, Arthur Miller’s ‘other play’ apparently got the heave after only four Broadway performances and has never reached the heights of his big three; The Crucible, All my Son’s and Death of a Salesman. It disappeared from the theatrical circuit for over 50 years until its Broadway revival in 2000 and is being increasingly performed since then, which is a good thing because it is a very fine play and this production absolutely grabs it by the throat and powers its way through two hours of excellent drama.
It’s in production as I write for a movie release later this year.
The play is written in the style of a morality tale, but it does not preach and is not in fact really about morality at all, even though the pursuit of money is the main subject matter. At its heart lies the increasing guilt, verging on despair, of the central character, David Beeves, played to perfection by Philip Cumbus. His guilt stems not from anything that he has done wrong but because he is blessed with a Midas touch. For every one of his yings a close friend or family member suffers a balancing yang and this increasingly gets to him until it climaxes in his rejection of his newborn child – itself something of a miracle.
The entire cast assume Midwestern American accents throughout (aside from Austrian immigrant JB Feller played by Andrew Vincent) and I didn’t spot a single slip. Act one centres on the repair of a rich farmer’s automobile and when this remarkable beast is wheeled onto centre stage the audience gasped in unison. It really is a great moment.
I liked this a lot. The mood changes steadily from general merriment and optimism to full blown angst and the pacing of this change is crucial to the success of the play.
In these times of rabid consumerism the turmoil that Beeves puts himself through is a refreshing thought provoker.
Do we all take things too much for granted?
Will we see things differently 12 months from now once the crunch has bitten deeper?
Will we all be more aware of our blessings?
I think so.
A play for the times indeed then.
Here’s a sneak preview…
And it would appear the Guardian liked it too.