The scene was set, and every nook and cranny was filled with
piles of books and newspapers, suitcases, a baseball bat, a piano
in one corner and a bicycle in another.

Fine Arts Reviews
I invented the Peanuts. (Courtesy of University Productions)

Chandeliers from all different time periods spilled light onto
the six-tier stage and the 22 cast members who inhabited it. Then,
with an opening monologue spoken by De’Lon Grant playing the
character of Quentin from the play “After the Fall,”
the audience was whisked into the mind of brilliant playwright
Arthur Miller.

“An Arthur Miller Celebration” is a play put
together by Mark Lamos, which commemorates the depth and genius of
Miller’s work throughout the years by tying together
different scenes from twelve of his plays, including such works as
“All My Sons,” “Death of a Salesman” and
“The Crucible.” The play takes the audience into the
playwright’s mind and explores how the Great Depression, love
and persecution all played a role in influencing Miller’s
work.

Miller offered his own insight on both his work and his life
when he spoke at the Mendelssohn Theater on Thursday.

“I wanted to write in a vague sort of way,” Miller
told the sold-out audience Thursday morning when asked if he had
come to the University to become a writer. “I wasn’t
thinking of becoming a playwright.” Miller explained that as
he got into writing, prose seemed too distant to him and that the
theatre at that time (in the ’30s) was exploding; it was
starting to reflect real life and the new radical outcry.

Miller’s work has always been experimental and somewhat
radical, and it has always created a picture of real people in real
situations. In the play “The Creation of the World and Other
Business,” a scene from which is used in the Love and Romance
section of “An Arthur Miller Celebration,” Miller
paints Adam and Eve as an old married couple, bickering about
everything, but obviously still in love. In a scene from “The
American Clock,” we see a man coming home to his prostitute
lover and discussing Marxism.

In what was perhaps the most powerful scene performed (pulled
from “Incident at Vichy,” 1964), five men in a holding
cell heatedly argue about whether they should try to break out of
the jail, while also expounding upon their differing views of the
Nazis. Leduc (Brad Fraizer) is a doctor who is the leading voice in
trying to convince the group to escape. Monceau (Brian Luskey)
serves as the loudest dissenting voice. Both men are Jewish, but
while Leduc believes he will be murdered, Monceau believes his fame
as an actor and his adherence to the law will save him. The scene
becomes more and more uncomfortable as Leduc repeatedly asks how
Monceau will feel when he is asked to “open his fly.”
The power of the scene comes from the truth behind the characters
and the reality of the roles.

Miller’s plays, while all different and special in their
own rights, all carry the same basic message. And that message is
that we are all in this life together. “An Arthur Miller
Celebration” illuminates this fact. It uses many plays,
grouping them together under the categories of “The
Depression,” “Love and Romance” or
“Persecution,” but all of them deal with the human
condition and the relationships that form between people.

The play itself expertly weaves the brilliant words of Arthur
Miller into a cohesive and interesting batch of snapshots,
connected with excerpts from Arthur Miller’s autobiography,
“Timebends: A Life,” 1987. The work of the cast,
however, makes the play the powerful production that it is. The
settings may be from the past — costumes are lifted from the
different periods represented — but the words spoken and the
intense emotions poured out into each line are what make the
production an emotional masterpiece.

In a monologue taken from “Death of a Salesman,” a
woman playing the role of Linda stands up and pronounces that while
her husband may not have been a great man, he was still a human
being. And, in a line that seems to sum up not only the entire
play, but also the outlook on life of one of the greatest
playwrights of our time, sophomore Malaika Nelson, in the role of
Linda, proclaims, “Attention, attention must be
paid.”

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