Broken Glass | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Broken Glass

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Broken Glass, Actors Workshop Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. In Arthur Miller's 1994 play, set in 1938 Brooklyn, a vibrant woman suffers paralysis of the legs. Her doctor thinks the cause is psychological, blaming her intense empathy with the Jews in Nazi Germany and her feelings of vulnerability after two decades in a loveless, sexually dysfunctional marriage. Her husband--a proud, angry man filled with self-loathing because of his Jewish heritage--believes her condition is an attack on him. "She is trying to destroy me," he moans.

In other hands, these characters' anguished search for truth, redemption, and hope might have made for a penetrating evening. Unfortunately, director Michael Colucci (who also plays the doctor) and his cast, including Marjorie Bransfield as the wife and David Wesley Cooper as her husband, take too heavy-handed an approach. Because they never waver from a high pitch, there's no way for the drama to escalate, and the characters are all too broadly portrayed. At times this cartoonishness works in favor of Laura Donnelly and Jan Ellen Graves, whose characters inject some much needed levity, but the more subtle emotions and motivations driving these people are lost. The performers also race through the show--though it still feels too long--never allowing the play to settle into a natural rhythm. Numbingly one-note, this production paralyzes the raw feelings and issues Miller meant to put on display.

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