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Broken Glass

Broken Glass
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Arthur Miller
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 88
Pub. Date: 1994
ISBN-10: 082221413X
ISBN-13: 9780822214137
Cast Size: 3 female, 3 male

About the Play:

Winner of the 1995 Laurence Olivier Award

Broken Glass is a full-length drama by Arthur Miller. It is set in 1938 New York when Sylvia Gellburg suddenly becomes partially paralyzed from the waist down, after reading about the Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass") events in Nazi Germany in the newspaper. Her doctor, Harry Hyman, believes Sylvia’s paralysis is psychosomatic and begins treatment, going deep into the family secrets in order to cure her. An Arthur Miller masterpiece, the production of Broken Glass at the Booth Theatre marked his landmark 50th anniversary since his debut on Broadway in 1944.

Broken Glass is the story of a Jewish couple who considers their lives and their pasts in 1938 Brooklyn, as storm clouds gather in Nazi Germany. Sylvia Gellberg has suddenly, mysteriously, become paralyzed from the waist down. Her husband Phillip takes her to see the popular and attractive Dr Harry Hyman, whose 'talking cure' has unexpected consequences. Dr. Hyman assures Phillip that physically, there is nothing wrong with his wife and that she is sane, but advises the only way to discover the cause of her paralysis is to probe into her psyche. At this point, the author begins to peel away all the layers of the characters' lives in this stunning, deeply effective exploration of what it means to be American and Jewish in 1938. In his attempts to uncover the truth about Sylvia's paralysis, Dr. Hyman, via conversations with Phillip, Sylvia, and her sister, Harriet, discovers that the Gellberg's marriage was built on resentment and that over the years has become loveless. While Sylvia's affliction leaves her terrified, it exposes Phillip's deepest emotions. He is obsessed with getting ahead, in a real estate company where he is the only Jew. He hates himself, and he loathes being Jewish. His self-hatred has always made him cold, and at times even cruel, yet, Sylvia's condition has magnified his feelings leaving him out of control with her, with Dr. Hyman and even with his employers. Dr. Hyman's obsessive determination to cure Sylvia leads him to discover that her paralysis occurred because of a traumatic reaction to news of Kristallnacht. In a single night, the Nazis destroyed thousands of Jewish homes and businesses, smashing windows and burning synagogues. Sylvia is obviously overwhelmed by a newspaper report on the infamous "Night of Broken Glass" and an accompanying photograph of two old men forced to scrub German sidewalks with toothbrushes. Haunted by these images, she becomes ill and is unable to move. She feels something must be done to stop the Nazis while most Americans believe the Germans won't allow them to get out of hand. But what can she do when she can't even change her own life? The atrocities in Germany, her husband's denial of his Jewishness and her own realization that she threw her life away have overcome her. Suddenly, she no longer simply feels helpless, she has truly become helpless. Finally, with everyone's feelings laid bare, the play comes to its heart-wrenching, electrifying conclusion, as Phillip has a heart attack and begs Sylvia's forgiveness as he dies.

Broken Glass had its world premiere in 1994 at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, before transferring to Broadway at the Booth Theatre. The British premiere was in 1994 at the Royal National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre. A revival of Broken Glass was staged in 2014 at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London, before transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End. The play has become a favourite scene study vehicle in acting classes and workshops and is regularly performed in repertory, high school, college, and community theatre productions.

Cast: 3 female, 3 male

What people say:

"In a metier where people burn out fast, Arthur Miller is still remarkable for the acuity and scope of his moral vision. Miller's voice, which remains as strong and unrelenting as a prophet's, distinguishes Broken Glass and gives it a poignance so rare these days that it's almost new-fashioned." — New York Times

"Playwrights tend to burn out young, so the fact that Arthur Miller, seventy-eight, opened a new drama on Broadway fifty years after his debut, is noteworthy. Even better, the play is good—complex, mysterious, full of arresting incident, grippingly played." — Time Magazine

"Broken Glass is a brave, bighearted attempt by one of the pathfinders of postwar drama to look at the tangle of evasions and hostilities by which the soul contrives to hide its emptiness from itself." — The New Yorker

"His strongest play for many years, a gripping and at times powerfully affecting drama. As almost always in his work, it balances private lives with public morality...It is also an amazingly full-blooded piece, bursting with pain and passion." — Daily Telegraph

About the Playwright:

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) is considered one of the great American playwrights. During the Depression, finances were scarce and he paid for his college tuition by working as a shipping clerk in a New York factory. He later wrote his first plays in college. With a career that spanned over 50 years, he wrote more than thirty plays that transformed American Theatre and proved to be both the conscience and redemption of the times. His probing dramas received many awards in his lifetime, including two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, for Death of a Salesman.

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