February 16, 2011
Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass” on stage
Among critics, it has been a kind of parlor game to unmask the Jewish characters in Arthur Miller’s plays.
By speech inflection and outlook, Willy Lohman of “Death of a Salesman” is Jewish, as the playwright himself acknowledged late in life.
How about the Kellers in “All My Sons,” and even the Carbones, disguised as Italians, in “A View from the Bridge”?
However, there is one play in which Jews and the Jewish fate are the undisguised focus. That is “Broken Glass,” which Miller wrote when he was 74 and which refers to Nazi Germany’s 1938 Kristallnacht, the forerunner of the Holocaust.
Now rarely seen, the play is being revived by the West Coast Jewish Theatre and probes the mindset of American Jews of the 1930s as they wrestled with assimilation, anti-Semitism, self-hatred and concern for their brethren in Europe.
At the center of “Broken Glass” is the Gellburg family (Gellburg, if you please, NOT Goldberg) of Brooklyn.
Sylvia, the mother, has been following events in Nazi Germany and annexed Austria obsessively. When she sees a photo of old Jewish men forced to scrub a sidewalk with toothbrushes, she becomes mysteriously paralyzed.
Her husband Phillip is the only Jewish executive at a WASP banking firm, where he is valued for his work but never accepted as an equal. He loves his wife and worries about her, but theirs has been a sexless marriage for two decades.
Elina de Santos directs the play with a cast including Susan Angelo, Michael Bofshever, Stephen Burleigh, Peggy Dunne, Renae Geerlings and Lindsay Ginter.
“Broken Glass” opens at the Pico Playhouse, 10580 W. Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles, on Feb. 25 and runs through April 17. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
For tickets, phone (323) 821-2449 or make online reservations at www.wcjt.org.