With nearly forty-five years worth of hindsight at his disposal, you’d think Arthur Miller would have ended up with something more penetrating—or funnier—for his latest effort, receiving its world premiere in a beautiful-looking but rather empty-feeling production at the Goodman. After years of refusing to publicly discuss his short marriage to Marilyn Monroe, Miller broaches the subject—well, sort of—by basing the play on the notorious, real-life events that plagued the set of “The Misfits,” the 1961 film Miller penned for Monroe. Depressed and popping pills, Monroe was often late, unprepared or simply too zonked out to work. At the same time, her marriage to Miller was on the rocks, adding to the behind-the-scenes complications. Though presented under a very thin pretext of fiction (the names are changed and Monroe is called, derogatively enough, Kitty), the story feels like a regurgitation of what we (presumably) already know: Kitty’s disastrous behavior is superficially tolerated because she has star power and box-office clout, which doesn’t stop her friends and colleagues from endlessly analyzing (and bitterly complaining) about a circumstance they help to perpetuate. It’s the theatrical equivalent of a spinning teacup ride—around and around you go, covering ground but never making much progress. Not to say that futility itself, when examined and satirized, can’t be compelling fodder. It’s just that here, it isn’t. Director Bob Falls lays it all out in a carefully measured fashion when what this material really needs is less hand-wringing and more whiz-bang timing—more Larry David, less Willy Loman. As the parasitic acting coach based on Paula Strasberg, Linda Lavin nails her role, but the other performances here feel so earnestly respectful, they all but cancel out the acidic absurdity of the situation. The big picture remains unfinished. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.