Broken Glass

Arthur Miller's Broken Glass

Phillip Gellburg is having a lot of problems. His wife has suddenly lost the capability to walk, and at work he has lost the confidence of his boss. He can't seem to accept the fact that he is Jewish, and the doctor he has hired to take care of his wife seems to be falling for her. 

These are the dilemmas faced by one man in a reproduction of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass, which recently opened at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn.

The play takes place in 1938 in Brooklyn. The Nazis have started to wield their power in Europe, and New York papers show images of Jews being forced to clean the sidewalks with toothbrushes. (The name of the play comes from Kristallnacht, the series of attacks against the Jews which took place throughout Germany and parts of  Austria on 9-10 November 1938.)

Phil (Antony Sher), head of his bank's mortgage department, has gone to the doctor to see what can be done about his wife, who has suddenly lost use of her legs. The doctor (played confidently and brilliantly by Nigel Lindsay) has been known to cheat on his wife (played by an ever-so-graceful Madeleine Potter), and so it is no surprise that he takes a liking to the paralyzed wife, Sylvia (a stoic Lucy Cohu).

The entire plot of the play centres around everyone trying to figure out why Sylvia can’t walk anymore, and in the process, the characters' deep, dark (and even darker) secrets come out.

The acting in this production is first rate, with Lindsay as the doctor giving a superb performance in his meticulously-fitted period clothing. Madeleine Potter lights up the stage with her radiant smile. We feel sympathy for Sylvia, thanks to Cohu’s performance. It is only Sher's performance that is the one false note in this production. His character is at the crux of the plot; however, Sher’s exaggerated New York Jewish accent is too much to bear and way over the top.
See this show for its excellent acting, the meltdown of a banker, and for the haunting music from a cellist draped behind a see-through curtain. It is all nothing short of dramatic.