Busy director Michael Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie) confirmed a published report that he and playwright Arthur Miller are working on a revised version of Miller's autobiographical After the Fall, for Roundabout Theatre's 2003-2004 season.
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 focuses 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).
Mayer told Playbill On-Line April 16 that in his position as resident director of the not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre he brings ideas to artistic director Todd Haimes, and admitted that when he first began an association with the Roundabout, he gave Haimes a wish list of works he was interested in staging for the theatre.
"At the top of the list was A View From the Bridge," Mayer said. The work would become one of the most acclaimed revivals in the Roundabout's history. In 1998, it won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and Mayer was nommed as Best Director.
"The agreement that I have with [Todd Haimes] is that if there's a play I want to do, I'll talk to him about it," Mayer explained. "Now that they're doing new work, which they weren't when I first started — the first new play they did was [the Mayer directed] Side Man — if there's new work that I come across that I think would be appropriate for the Roundabout, I would bring it to him. I can do readings there whenever I want. It's my home. It's the place I go when I want to try something out." 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."
Will Swank do the Roundabout staging?
"It will all depend on schedules and all that," Mayer said. "I've wanted to work with her for a while. We've done a couple of readings together. Whether it's this show or something else, I think she's a super talent."
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, with The Man Who Had All the Luck, beginning performances April 19 at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre.
— By Kenneth Jones