Thursday, October 21, 2004

A New Work by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller, who turned 89 this week, has a new play.

Miller’s latest, “Finishing the Picture,” is having its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre through Nov. 7. And though many of the reviews were mixed at best, there’s no denying the play’s impact on the people who helped bring it to life.

“I compare this to a late work of Ibsen or Shakespeare,” says Robert Falls, who runs the Goodman and who directed the Miller work. “There is a tremendous sense of compassion and forgiveness in this play.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the production’s starry ensemble cast, a collection of actors that includes Stacy Keach, Linda Lavin, Matthew Modine, Scott Glenn, Stephen Lang, Frances Fisher and Harris Yulin.

“The play has got so much excitement and weight to it,” says Lavin. “Chekhov came to mind when I read it. Phrases come from the heart, and intellect gets mixed up with feeling. It’s a most powerful human drama.”

“Picture” comes from the past, too. It comes from an episode in Miller’s life when he was married to film icon Marilyn Monroe. They were on the set of “The Misfits,” the 1961 movie for which the playwright wrote the screenplay. It was a chaotic shoot, with the star having difficulty getting up each day to face the cameras. Out of that incident came the play.

It is a wonderful testimony to the strength and vitality of a man who had his first play produced on Broadway over 60 years ago that he is still writing and creating powerful drama. It gives inspiration to those of us who are still considered “young,” and may we look forward to more stories from a man who is arguably one of the greatest voices of the American theatre; the man who gave us Death of a Salesman, View from the Bridge, All My Sons, The Crucible, and After the Fall, just to name a few. Keep on, Mr. Miller; a man’s gotta dream.