THE THEATER ESSAYS OF ARTHUR MILLER by Arthur Miller
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THE THEATER ESSAYS OF ARTHUR MILLER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although editor Martin launches this collection of 23 essays and three interviews with an absurdity (Miller's ""major contribution to the theater and literature of his time is unquestionably his 'Introduction' to the Collected Plays""), there is in fact a great something ringing out through these 25 years of introductions, reactions to criticism, and reflections on the state-of-the-theater. And, by stitching together fragments from three decades, one could pack that something into a single sentence: since the theater is a place where ""an adult who wants to live can find plays that will heighten his awareness of what living in our time involves,"" its challenge ""is still the Elizabethan one, the public address on the street corner,"" and ""a drama rises in stature and intensity in proportion to the weight of its application to all manner of men."" Miller's specific hopes, quarrels, and worries all proceed from that obvious-seeming but controversial credo: his obsession with tragic heroes (""those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them"") in ""a country which as yet has no tragic sense of itself""; his frustration as the Fifties (an ""era of gauze"") became the Sixties (an ""era of anecdotes""); his fear of the ""cruel, romantic neuroticism"" that threatens to write ""Oedipus without the pestilence, an Oedipus whose catastrophe is private""; his problems with realism, his love of Aeschylus and Ibsen and Streetcar Named Desire, his contempt for Method actors, his insistence on government subsidy for theater. True, not everything here is dogma and demand--a piece on the theater's real ""glamour"" is gloriously stagestruck. And personal petulance occasionally detracts from the towering validity of Miller's stand, as when his defense of The Crucible fails to acknowledge that ""moral awareness"" (which he says frightened a McCarthyized audience from the play) can sometimes be moral tendentiousness. Students and producers, of course, will find out all they'd ever want to know (and more) about Miller's intentions in writing All My Sons, Salesman, Crucible, and View from the Bridge; there's little or nothing about what came after After the Fall. But, more importantly, playwrights and playgoers will find out what's missing in today's theater--as repeated and repeated with sham-less and shameless earnestness by a stage presence of unvarnished eloquence.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0306807327
Publisher: Viking