After The Fall, by American dramatist Arthur Miller, was written just after his second wife’s suicide. His second wife was Marilyn Monroe.
Critics have tended to loathe this play, saying it adheres too closely to the events of Marilyn’s life and suicide. They also fault its rambling structure, in which plot points are brought up and not resolved till much later. The play jumps around in time, apparently in an attempt to reconstruct stories as the mind and memory reconstructs things.
The story centers on Miller’s questioning of his interest in a third marriage to a German woman named Holga. It is a personal play in which the lead character goes on a quest to make peace with his history and the choices he has made in his public and private life. Many of Miller’s plays have guilt as a subject, but this play represents specifically Miller’s obsession with guilt over women, especially Marilyn, as well as his involvement with the McCarthy hearings and the subsequent suicide of a friend, and even the unresolved guilt that surrounds the Holocaust. Basically he is looking at how a person can go on living “after the fall” once his innocence is destroyed. His answer seems to be: Do the best you can.
I saw this play with the original cast and was puzzled by it even then, despite brilliant performances by Jason Robards Jr. and Barbara Loden. When the central performance is so badly performed as it is in the case of Brian Robert Harris’s Quentin, the play can be insufferable. All he does is whine and say ”how confused” he is. The confusion he displays is not that of an intellectual Jewish writer but rather that of an ordinary guy who is in over his head, perhaps reflecting the state the actor finds himself in when preparing the role. Luckily he has a supporting cast that keeps things going. I liked Mary Carrig as Louise and especially Jennefer Ludwigsen as Maggie (Monroe). It is a real tribute to Ms. Ludwigsen that she is able to bring off this difficult role despite having to act with Harris’s Quentin.
The set for After The Fall is basically some platforms and a series of pillars made out of cloth upon which director RoZsa Horvath projects a scene from a concentration camp and brief appearances by other characters. Unfortunately it was not always clear what they were saying. After The Fall will play at the Lillian Theatre through April 1.