THE STORY: Brooklyn, New York. The end of November, 1938. Sylvia Gellberg has suddenly, mysteriously, become paralyzed from the waist down. As the play opens, her husband, Phillip, and her doctor, Dr. Hyman, meet to discuss the prognosis and test results. The doctor 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 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 quickly after a newspaper report on Krystallnacht and an accompanying photograph of two old men forced to clean the streets of Germany with toothbrushes. 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.
Winner of the 1995 Laurence Olivier Award. The production of BROKEN GLASS at the Booth Theatre is Arthur Miller’s landmark fiftieth anniversary since his debut on Broadway in 1944. “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.” —NY 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.