Let’s Review: Broken Glass cast deftly portrays pain of assimilation at North Coast Repertory Theatre
By Diana Saenger
The 1930’s backstory in playwright Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass,” is revealed in the first moments of the play. Phillip Gellburg (Ralph Elias) is meeting with Dr. Harry Hyman (David Ellenstein) about a new problem with his wife, Sylvia (Elaine Rivkin). All of a sudden, Sylvia has lost her ability to stand or walk.
After delving into the couple’s situation, Hyman learns that Sylvia is obsessed with reading newspaper reports of how the German Nazis are treating the Jews, old and young. She continually cries from her bed in Brooklyn for someone to intervene and stop the cruelty.
When Dr. Hyman meets Sylvia, he senses that nothing is physically wrong with her; this is most likely a psychosomatic case of hysterical paralysis. The more Hyman visits Sylvia, the more she becomes enamored of him. There are a few times when he might also reciprocate her feelings, but then he reminds himself of his lovely and faithful wife, Margaret (Shana Wride).
The more Phillip sees no changes in his wife, the more embittered he becomes. He hasn’t been a pleasant man for some time. He’s a Jew upset about his ethnicity and this affects everything from his job to his personal life. When Dr. Hyman presses with questions about the couple’s relationship, Sylvia is mournfully honest, while Philip is indignant and dances around his answers.
Miller’s pacing of the play is somewhat slow, however, the cast does a good job of maintaining the intrigue. Ellenstein is superb as Dr. Hyman. Rivkin has a tougher role to play because Sylvia is never out of a wheelchair or her bed; still Rivkin makes the woman’s painful plight feel real. Elias gives us the perfect character to dislike; he never cracks from Phillip’s rude, abrupt and stiff persona, and even in a moment when Phillip confesses how much he truly loves Sylvia, he confirms that actions speak louder than words.
Kerry McCue has a short time on stage as Sylvia’s sister, and is genuine in revealing her sister’s history to the doctor. Wride is very effective as Margaret, Hyman’s wife. She’s funny when trying to converse with the annoyed Phillip. She’s very clever at delivering slight digs about her husband’s relationships with some of his patients.
Miller’s work is always interesting to watch. “Broken Glass” is not one of his most popular plays, but the NCRT production, with seamless direction by Rosina Reynolds, is worth seeing.
If you go
What: “Broken Glass”
When: matinees, evenings to Nov. 10
Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
Box Office: (858) 481-1055
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