Theatre: “After the Fall”

With The Crucible and Death of a Salesman as evidence, I thought Arthur Miller’s last play, After the Fall, would have had similar oomph. Boy, was I wrong.

From the Studio Theatre website:

“Miller’s After the Fall (1964) is a strongly autobiographical work, which deals with the questions of guilt and innocence, examining failed relationships, false American values and broken principles amid larger political and social failures like the aftermath of the Holocaust and the McCarthy communist witch hunt. One of the central characters, Maggie, is clearly modeled on Monroe, although Miller always denied this.”

After reading an interview with director Stefan Dzeparoski, I wholly give him the credit that he deserves in attempting to unpack this challenging play, as at intermission, Mack and I both had no idea what was going on.

Between the too-busy set (the textured backdrop, giant wardrobe, theatre seats, overhead screen, and rolling bed in the second half), and projected visuals (Quentin’s conscience, ghosts, and wife Maggie), it was a battle to pay attention to the words alone. The fragmented narration, with characters popping in and out of Quentin’s life, was too difficult to follow. I also wasn’t able to reconcile the first half of the play, with storylines involving the House of Un-American Activities Committee, Quentin’s mother, and his first two wives, with the second half that centered on Quentin’s tumultuous relationship with his third wife. “Strongly autobiographical,” I’m convinced that only Arthur Miller himself would truly be able to tell us what he intended of this play.

That said, I thought Melissa Thingelstad’s performance as Louise was a bright spot in the play, while Mack liked Meredith Bailey’s turn as Maggie.

Beyond that, I don’t have much else to say, except that the audience’s stunned silence following the end of the production, and subsequent delay in applause, said it all.

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