Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On The Arts Fuse: New Rep's Boston Premiere of Arthur Miller's BROKEN GLASS

On The Arts Fuse I review New Repertory Theatre's production of Broken Glass, a play by the major American playwright, Arthur Miller, that first premiered in 1994 had to wait until his centenary before it was ever presented in the Boston-area.

A major theme of the play is anti-Semitism: Both the violent anti-Semitism that erupted in Germany in November 1938, in a pogrom now known as Kristallnacht and the more polite form it takes in America. Most radical is Miller's treatment of the internalized anti-Semitism exemplified in the figure known as the "self-hating Jew":

Today’s dramas about identity politics are usually confident tales of empowerment. Miller goes in a far more radical direction: he creates a harrowing portrait of Jewish self-hatred. “Self-hating Jew” is a charge that has been leveled by and against Jews from a number of directions — religious and secular, the ideological left and right. Typically, this involves Jews adopting or excusing the attitudes, beliefs, rhetoric, and behaviors of anti-Semites – often with the benefit of increasing their status as individuals amongst anti-Semites.

Philip works as the head of the mortgage department at the Brooklyn Guarantee & Trust Company. (He brags he is the only Jew employed at a company owned and operated by what would later be known as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.) However, when Philip first meets Margaret Hyman (Eve Passeltiner), he is offended when she mistakenly addresses him as Goldberg; he even goes so far as to insist that he’s not Jewish, but Finnish. He will only affirm his Jewish identity when it confers special status: he is not just the only Jew at Brooklyn Guarantee, but the only one to set foot on the yacht owned by his boss, Stanton Case (Michael Kaye). Philip imagines that his son, an Army captain and West Point graduate, will someday become the first Jewish general in the U.S. Army (in truth, that title may belong to Civil War-era Brigadier General Frederick Knefler).

I also consider the historical contexts of the play: Its 1938 setting, the on-going atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia when it premiered in 1994, as well as the human rights crises faced by the world in 2015.

Read the entire review on The Arts Fuse!

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