Almost 40 Years After After the Fall, Miller Addresses Marilyn Monroe in a New Play

News   Almost 40 Years After After the Fall, Miller Addresses Marilyn Monroe in a New Play Marilyn Monroe, already conjured in Arthur Miller's After the Fall, is referenced anew in a new play by 87-year-old Miller, who was married to the troubled actress, The New York Post reported.

A private reading of his new play, called Finishing the Picture, was held recently, according to the paper. The script is reportedly based on the creation of Monroe's last movie, 1961's "The Misfits," for which Miller penned the screenplay and during which Monroe was struggling with depression, unwieldy moods and substance abuse.

David Richenthal, who produced the recent Tony-honored Death of a Salesman, is said to have attended the reading.

The play is not in its final form, but there's a draft of it, a source told The Post. The Monroe character, named Kitty, is not seen on stage, but is referenced throughout.

The Post reported characters mirrored people who worked on "The Misfits." Harris Yulin played a John Huston inspired movie director, Sam Robards played the screenwriter, Brian Dennehy "read the part of a trucking company executive, who, through a corporate merger, has acquired the studio making the movie."

Frank Langella and Tovah Feldshuh played acting teachers based on the Strasbergs. As the work is still developing, there is no announced creative team or production timetable.

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Busy director Michael Mayer, who staged the Tony Award honored revival of Miller's A View From the Bridge in 1998, has been working with Miller in the last two seasons on a revised version of Miller's autobiographical After the Fall.

The 1964 play was the first work to be staged by the new Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center (housed temporarily at ANTA Washington Square Theatre) and focused on a lawyer who reflects on the women in his life so as to have a breakthrough that allows him to have a functional relationship with a new woman. The new woman, named Holga, is inspired by Miller's real-life wife, the photographer Inge Morath (who died earlier this year). The play's second act deals largely with the lawyer's second marriage to an actress who commits suicide (Miller was famously married to troubled actress Marilyn Monroe; they divorced and she died in 1962).

A summer 2001 reading of After the Fall directed by Mayer featured Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") as the actress-wife, Maggie; Peter Friedman as searching lawyer Quentin; and Linda Emond as Holga.

"[It] went really well and was very exciting," Mayer said. "I got a lot of ideas about how to work on it. It's a flawed masterpiece, I think. I met with Arthur a few times now to discuss what to do with it. I've got some ideas and he's very open to that. It's not so much rewriting as restructuring. Cutting and restructuring, I would say. I think the words are all there. He seemed very amenable."

What attracted Mayer to After the Fall, a title many people know but few have seen?

"The inner journey of the protagonist," Mayer said. "It's so psychologically rich: This man is sort of doing this exhaustive soul-searching and every betrayal and every infraction and every sort of challenge to understanding about what decency is — through his whole life — comes flooding back in a kind of stream-of-consciousness way. It was very ahead of its time, I think. You see this man doing real battle with his demons with all the people in his life. You feel like before he can move forward and accept the love of a new woman in his life, he's got to somehow get beyond all the other relationships that have plagued him, and his own inadequacies and his own failings and the betrayals he has endured or witnessed — and the betrayals that he has actually perpetrated."

Mayer said the work is obviously a reflection of part of Miller's life. "The play is dedicated to Inge, his wife who just died this year, who was a fantastic person, I adored her," Mayer said. "I think it's a great, great play."

Mayer's staging of A View from the Bridge at the Roundabout arguably kicked off the current Miller renaissance. Since then, Broadway has seen major revivals of Death of a Salesman, The Price, The Crucible and The Man Who Had All the Luck.

Miller's most recent play Resurrection Blues, an allegory about the modern-day crucifixion of a messianic character in a South American country and the people who profit from it, had its world premiere in summer 2002 at the Guthrie Theatre. The play's East Coast premiere is Sept. 17 at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia.