AFTER THE FALL Begins! Your Thoughts?

A first preview is under our belt. We make discoveries. We scale the mountain. It runs 2 hours and 25 minutes (not including a 15 minute intermission). We make adjustments. That’s what a preview at night and follow-up rehearsals by day are for. Further refinements. The play is amazing. It is amazingly large. It is about so many things. And yet its argument is entirely accessible at its essence: Can we love again after the destruction of love? After seeing our own murderous part in the death of idealism, can we believe again? Can we regain faith in ourselves and in another after we have betrayed and been betrayed?

Dated questions? I think not.

I wonder what 20+ students think who saw first preview last night! They see THE CRUCIBLE over at Church Street Theatre tonight, produced by our friends at Keegan. We’ll see what folks have to say about the relationship between these two very different, yet also similar works. Here are a few thoughts I wrote in the program:

It is both surprising, yet strangely comforting to remember that The Crucible was not what anyone would deem an instant success when it first opened at the Martin Beck Theatre to mixed reviews and was listed as a failure in Variety. That sense of initial dismissiveness is even more attributable to After The Fall. Too much focus, it seems, was spent making superficial parallels between reality and the drama on stage. In fact, an inordinate amount of ink parsed those differences, skewing much of the serious discussion surrounding both After The Fall and The Crucible. We consider the two works in tandem today, as our friends at Keegan Theatre mount their own production of The Crucible just three blocks away at the Church Street Theater, while we gather to investigate Miller’s more neglected epic in our space.

Miller had occasion to reflect on the gradual acceptance of The Crucible in popular consciousness after its influential Off-Broadway revival, some six years after the premiere, which ushered the play into the pantheon as one of the most produced plays in the world.

“Now that McCarthyism is only a word to a large part of the audience, the play seems closer to what I had envisioned in the first place: there is a wider reference—to the human tendency to lay conscience on the altar of Authority—and perhaps this comes through more evidently now. At bottom, I suppose I was trying to assert that there is almost a biology of human ethics and that people literally die when it is violated—all in order to further define what a man is. Now that the journalism is out of the way, maybe this comes to the fore. . .”

What a wonderful way of framing our entry into After The Fall: Now that the journalism, and the gossip, and the gawking are out of the way, we can stop referencing the sensationalized spectacle of Marilyn Monroe and her starlet’s suicide, and look at what really lies at the heart of this deeply probing, quietly heroic, utterly humane play.

Jose Carrasquillo’s visionary staging, with its streamlined cast size emphasizing a transformational theatricality and essentializing the meaning of the forces who both form–and transform–Quentin’s character, helps us take a huge step away from the gossip page’s outrage that Miller was writing a rough, unsentimental chronicle too soon after his second wife’s death. What we come to see instead, as in The Crucible, is the story of a man wrestling with his own flaws and hesitancies to re-engage with the world in the wake of society’s breaking down — in the shadows of The Shoah and in the wake of McCarthyism’s hysteria that so disfigured our landscape–that same man finds himself an implicated bystander to our century’s greatest crimes and so begins to understand how our calamitous history might have happened; how we might begin anew; how, in the wake of so much wreckage, we can become worthy of renewal.

After The Falls holds up so incredibly well today and feels like such a contemporary documentation (even with its time-capsule attentiveness to the morals and mores of its time) because it is both brutally honest and confessional—and yet complex in a way that transcends today’s sophomoric tell-alls—as it fuses our culture’s obsession with celebrity and our subjugation to prevailing authority—interweaving community opprobrium within the framework of the individual’s quest for liberation and clarity; for speaking and living out a marriage, and a life, of truth as opposed to one of compromise and falsehood.

It’s both Jose’s vision for this production, and the passage not only of time, but of the passing of Arthur Miller himself, that helps us really see this play anew. Only after Miller’s death are we, perhaps, able to see the alter-ego of Quentin in more appreciating terms. While brooding introspection and self-incrimination are pretty much out of vogue these days, the charges of authorial indulgence were hurled pretty viciously at this play early on. What emerges now for us instead is something much more admirable: a character who prosecutes himself astringently, examines his life comprehensively, and refuses to let himself off the hook. Quentin has a similarly clear-eyed assessment of how so many soft-pedaled the terrors of Communism, which is offset by the horror registered in seeing how our country so grossly over-reacted to the threat of the Red Menace. In our age of bullet points and sound bites, Quentin allows us to experience a layered and complex moral reckoning with our past and present, as Miller dares us to see ourselves as both complicit actors as well as capable of retrieving innocence. We must begin to believe anew. This is Miller in his prophetic mode, not as moral scold, but as social animal, insisting that we find the will to add to the world with new love.

The play makes us feel tremendous loss. And that’s a credit to the playwright’s powers of empathy. More than anything, the revelation of this production is in Miller’s bravery as a writer. He digs deep, and reveals soul-baring moments, not just from him own character’s life, but in charting the crises of so many others. Miller taps into the lower depths. And that kind of writing takes courage. Perhaps that’s what we take away from this production as well: The courage to see ourselves in all that is good and bad in the world, and thus a compulsion to be a part of its betterment.


24 thoughts on “AFTER THE FALL Begins! Your Thoughts?

  1. After the Fall is packed with powerful emotions. Multiple heavy themes run deep throughout the play. One might have to work a little bit to stay focused during the first half and grasping all of the characters and issues as they are being presented requires some thought, but the forced attentiveness pays off in the second half of the play. I found aspects of the climax scene between Maggie and Quintin particularly powerful and thought provoking.

    The audience sees the journey that Maggie’s character has taken from care-free, fun-loving girl to broken down desperate woman. It is almost as if she is not even the same person until she brings us back to memories of her previous self with phrases like, “Can you stay just five minutes?” Those moments melt your heart. Happy Maggie is still buried in that person somewhere, but just does not seem to know how to escape. The sense of desperation on the stage is overwhelming. Meanwhile, Quintin feels desperation and helplessness as well. He truly wants to save Maggie, but he does not know how to help her get better. Her wellness may not even be within his power. He is also trapped because he does not want to sentence himself to misery and death with her; he explains, “suicide is meant to kill two people”.

    The scene is overrun with emotional complexity and sends each individual audience member down a unique path of contemplation. By the time the scene finished, I was left with several intense thoughts regarding suicide, love, desperation and betrayal that I wanted to explore and discuss more after the play.

    Judging from the talk back, I was not alone. The play impacted audience members in many different ways. After the Fall definitely had a clear story line and the variety of emotional reactions does not mean the performance was incoherent, but rather that is was relatable.

  2. In the last two days we watched “After the Fall”, as well as, the “Crucible”. Both plays left me with a very cynical viewpoint of humanity, but in different ways. Also, let me make clear that although the plays left me feeling cynical it did not mean that I didn’t enjoy the plays or that they did not achieve the message they were trying to relay.

    Starting off, I would like to address some of the aspects of “After the Fall” I liked and didn’t like. I think one of the most interesting aspects of the play is the choice for the first half to bounce around so much, often time mixing together characters from different time periods and stories of Quinton’s life. I personally really like these scenes because it brings up the question, what does this character have to do with this scene? Why is the ghost from his past suddenly standing there? It is easy to write it off as just too jumbled and too confusing, but I think there is a deeper meaning that the play is trying to convey. In my opinion it is all right to not understand every aspect of a play the first time you see it. Some of the most powerful plays are ones that you see multiple times and walking away each time feeling like you understand another aspect of the story.

    Continuing on, I think that the striking difference in the style of the play during the first and second half is really remarkable. Where the first half has multiple different stories going at once, the second half has a much larger focus on one. I personally think that this forces the audience to question why focus in on this story. What part of modern day Quinton does this scene shape? I heard a lot of people express that they liked the second half a lot more because it was easier to follow and I just want to ask if anyone came up with any ideas why the playwright wrote it to follow this format?

    I just want to bring up one point from the “Crucible”. I thought it was an excellent performance, and I had some very strong reactions to some of the scenes. I thought that some of the actors were really great, but others were kind of a let down. I just wanted to say that I saw this play very similar to “Parade” in the fact that both revolved around this idea of a mob mentality. I actually thought this play was more powerful and I got more worked up watching the “Crucible” story line develop. I was just wondering what other people’s thoughts were about “Parade” compared to “Crucible”?

  3. Tonight’s discussion left us with a difficult question: why should we see the play at this time? After the Fall incorporates themes from the history of McCarthyism Marilyn Monroe, both of which are relevant to today. Blame is a highlighted theme within these three pieces of history. Another thing one should consider is the role that money plays in the character’s behavior. Money is relevant regardless of the historical context.

    During the Salem witch trials and the more recent McCarthy trials, those alleged of witchcraft or thought to be Soviet spies, lost their lives either literally or professionally. We see blame clearly surrounding the hysteria of communism, but it is appears in marriage as well. Both of Quentin’s wives are never happy with him, and blame him for the imminent fall of their relationship. They complain that they do not get the love and attention they deserve. However, is that the real reason behind their unhappiness?
    Quentin’s mother’s anxiety about her husband’s debt demonstrates her concern for money. She yells that she will lose her precious bongs and calls her husband an idiot. Money also plays a role in the profound change that we see in Maggie after her marriage. The loss of innocence follows her fame and fortune. She begins to make sure that everything is perfect. She changed from a girl who could care less about a torn skirt to a suicidal performer who wanted to tear down a dune to hear the ocean while making love—quite the transformation.

    Money changes people and not always for the better. It also can be the root to many problems. It sounds cliché, but it makes the world go ‘round.
    Now, how does this all tie in to why we need to see the play today? Look at the financial crisis Europe, the United States, and many other countries are facing. Look at how avarice, lies, and betrayal have affected the global economy. Money, money, money.

  4. I truly enjoyed the drama and complexity of “After The Fall”. Although at times the production was difficult to follow, I had the feeling that it reflected on Arthur Miller’s own problematical life. After doing some minor research on the author, he in fact had three wives with very similar problems to the women portrayed in the play. In addition, after Miller wrote “The Crucible”, he ran into some issues with the House Un-American Activities Committee, just like Quentin and his friends.

    During the discussion of “After The Fall”, we were asked to throw out some different themes of the play. Some mentioned were betrayal, that it was a time of conformity and blame. These themes can be tied into “The Crucible”, just as well. For example, Quentin and John Proctor, main characters in the shows, were both accused in situations they were not necessarily a part of. I really find it helpful when playwrights tie productions together because it allows the audience to get a better feeling of what he or she as the author is like and it generally promotes a more thoughtful experience in the theater.

    I have seen “The Crucible” numerous times and I have to say that this was probably my favorite performance I’ve seen. What makes this one different from the others is that the director casted the characters precisely into their age group. Granted, when I saw this in high school and at Michigan, the ages aren’t going to match up. It made the play more comprehensible and somewhat more enjoyable for me and I would imagine for others who have never seen it.

  5. I found After The Fall to be extremely self-indulgent. Author Miller’s pseudo-biography focused on his inner demons to a befuddling degree, and while the plays long soliloquies may have sparked useful academic discussion, that intellectual aspect came at the cost of a more coherent and motivating plot. Sometimes abstractness is a virtue, but in an autobiographical story plot seems essential to understanding the message of the play, not to mention keeping viewers interested. One man in the talk back said he saw a lot of theatre and he felt he had to work hard on this play. I wholeheartedly agree except I wonder what that hard work was for? After two hours plus there still didn’t seem to be a clear message unless the point of the play is contradictions. Is it an optimistic end that Quentin “rises like boys every morning” or is it devastating that he does only to realize as the day goes on the he may be incapable of giving love. Perhaps it’s both and that’s the point, but if a play is going to spend most of its time on a diatribe about one’s own life it would be nice if we left with more than feeling that we had just heard the author complain about, and over think every aspect of his life.

    I will say that the Marylyn Monroe storyline did keep me interested. Arthur Miller’s life was fascinating and After The Fall does lend some insight into his relationship with Marylyn. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would have been to be married to such a famous movie star. I thought the guilt that Arthur Miller felt at being ashamed of his wife was powerful. Guilt was pervasive throughout. His guilt over his friend’s suicide, his guilt over not being a better husband, brother or son, all his guilt was at the forefront of this play.

    The choice to put the setting in an airport was a helpful choice. It helped to keep the play grounded, especially considering the original set was supposed to be a series of small craters in the stage. The airport setting also worked well with the plot. For as much I wasn’t entertained by this play it was certainly thought provoking and will stick with me.

    Continuing on with the Arthur Miller plays, seeing the crucible was a great contrast with After The Fall. The Crucible is completely plot driven and delivers all the red scare politics that After The Fall barely begins to deal with. The Salem witch trials are a perfect vehicle to attack McCarthyism, and Arthur Miller is able to ridicule McCarthy without compromising the story.

    The Crucible had a slow start. The third act was amazingly powerful, and brilliantly acted. It always reminds me why innocent until proven guilty is so important, and how easily it is for groupthink to pervade a community. The scariest part about McCarthyism was that everyone was a possible suspect, and all it took to be brought in for questioning was one accusation. Being un-American is about as hard to prove as being a witch, which makes it hard to defend yourself against accusations.

    In both of these Miller plays the acting was great, especially Quentin in After The Fall, I can’t believe he can remember all those lines.

  6. After The Fall was a very heavy and complex piece, making it a very enjoyable experience. As stated by some audience members who also watch this play being performed for the first time, the beginning wasn’t very attention grabbing at times I felt a bit lost in the plot, but once the character of Maggie was introduced I was able to get a sense of a clear and logical plot. The duality of Miller’s take on McCarthyism juxtaposed with a somewhat fictionalized story of his own love life was a very interesting dynamic, but I think the play juggled so much substantial information a bit of it was lost in translation. There was so much to interpret and my mind was always filled with questions and thoughts, which I guess is kind of the point.

    One interesting technique that pushed the narrative very well (this is also something I haven’t seen in a lot of plays thus far) was the non-linear, free flowing way in which emerging characters just jumped back onto the stage. Quentin would be engaged with Maggie, for example, in an intense dialogue, while his first wife would begin speaking off to the side on stage, simultaneously. Then Quentin would jump right into that scene in a seamless transition. I really liked how this worked for the play – it really stood out to me as a unique narrative device. (and I hope I explained it well).

    As for the Crucible, the plot was a lot clearer, and there is just something more enjoyable to me about that storyline so i may be a bit biased. However, I enjoyed the dialogue in After The Fall so much more. One audience member described After The Fall as an “academic” play, which I find to be true. There is a lot of intellectual undertone and thematic scripture encoded in a story so close to Arthur Miler’s own life. I came to both plays with different expectations and find it hard to say one was better than the other, as they appealed to me as a viewer in very unique ways.

  7. Why do I think think that Theater J chose to put on After the Fall? Well–as mentioned in the above comments I agree the the play has timeless themes of humanity, self-forgiveness and regret, along with loyalty and reflection of character. I thought the most engaging theme of the play is the notion of resolve. In the beginning Quentin says that he always feels like he is litigating with himself about his own integrity and identity. The play travels through Quentin’s stream of consciousness over a space of ten minutes leading up to Holga’s arrival at the airport when Quentin has to decide whether or not to move a relationship forward with this new woman in his life. Litigating with yourself is something that I can identify with. As humans, we are constantly weighing options and deciding whether our actions are justified.

    This may be far-fetched, but I think the the decision of Theater J to put on After the Fall represents a decision to show the audience the ridiculous nature of our polarizing and vilifying political arena. In today’s society, a person, it seems, is forced to pick one side of the great partisan chasm. Liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, our identity is shaped around a multitude of choices made possible by an opinionated and, at times, oppressive media.

    Throughout the play I constantly could relate to Quentin’s confusion of his sense of self. The most promising thing to see was that all his life’s actions led him closer to understanding who he was, and what life he strives to attain. His journey reminds me of a quote from the book (and movie), Eat Pray Love: “…if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” In the end, Quentin is able to break down and understand his relationships with Louise and Maggie in order to open himself to the possibility of Holga.

    After the Fall is relevant for its truth-seeking personal journey, and its ominous political connotations, and I firmly believe that the only reason this masterpiece by Arthur Miller wasn’t given the acclaim it deserved in its time was that its release was too close to the death of Miller’s second wife, Monroe.

  8. Since so much of After The Fall displays the relationship as a significant facet of life, I would like to contribute my commentary on this subject. Much of the play progresses in a non-chronological manner, however Arthur Miller presents the protagonist’s two prominent relationships chronologically. Both relationships give their own commentary on the roles of abstraction – or the act of separating – allowing Quentin to formulate his approach for his current relationship with Holga.

    The first one, between Quentin and Louise, dives into the dynamics of abstractions. After marrying at a young age, their relationship slowly began to tire them. Louise grew frustrated with Quentin’s lack of ability in satisfying her womanly needs and Quentin grew confused on how to fix these issues. Quentin claimed that their lack of unity began to mold their own abstract views of one another and then later claimed out frustration, “We are killing one another with abstractions.” The two could not understand one another at that point by their habit of perpetuating their perception of the other leaving them even further separated. Quentin tried to infer his view of a relationship as being two unified souls, but Louise insisted that they were two separate people and that he must understand. Their inability to compromise these views led to the relationship’s demise.

    Quentin’s relationship with Maggie began amidst his relationship with Louise. Quentin explains to Louise that Maggie made him feel abstract but in a different way than their abstractions. He refers to Maggie’s ability to make him feel like he is apart from the concrete realities of his own life – his hardship with Louise. As he leaves Louise and develops his relationship with Maggie, he runs into more turmoil. Those initial abstractions that he experiences with Maggie begin to take a similar shape as those that he experienced with Louise. As Maggie begins to view Quentin as a selfish husband who is not satisfied with his wife, she is also battling with drug addictions that separate her from the realities of hr own life. Quentin then tells Maggie, as he threatens to leave her, that they are separate people and that she must pull herself out of her drug addiction. He takes on Louise’s perspective on the role of separation in a relationship leaving him in a state of confusion when considering how he should handle his relationship with Holga. However, as a counter-argument, he could have also viewed Maggie’s separation as her flaw in their relationship, which would reiterate his position on the role of separation in a relationship.

    I believe Arthur Miller presents the play in this way to make us all ponder this question: What is the appropriate role of separation in a relationship?

  9. I would definitely agree that After the Fall was a drama filled, thought-provoking performance that left the audience with questions pertaining to internal struggles on self and relationships and a more outward focus on society’s ability to foster hypocrisy. That being said, I would also agree with Ian that the play seemed incredibly self-indulgent. I did, for the most part, enjoy the play as it was very personal and emotionally draining. But I do have a few criticisms.

    First, it seemed that the entire performance was meant to be a pity party for Quentin and how he had been hurt by his family, his first wife, etc. I felt like he was portrayed as this man who had never committed a wrong, but was always getting caught up in the crossfire and being burned by the people around him. Besides the fact that it’s annoying to have to hear someone complain about the bad things that have happened to them which countless others have experienced, there’s also something to be said about the fact that this was a narration from Quentin himself and that it took place inside his own head. He painted everyone else as the reason for all of his turmoil and seemed to leave himself innocent. But memories are biased, and rarely give an actual picture.

    Second, I felt the connection to the red scare and McCarthyism was almost absent. While I certainly understand the importance of Quentin’s internal debate about his past relationships and if he can ever trust or love again, I think the story which should have had the most relevance ended up taking a back seat, in my opinion, to a less important message. This play failed in being serious about addressing a topic that is a skeleton in America’s closet that should not be forgotten, and I think the exploration of that topic should have been the primary focus. Our society is still filled with much of the hate, bias, and misunderstanding that was present during the era of the red scare.

    This leads me to the Crucible, which did a fantastic job of framing that very discussion. In a matter of weeks, a town goes from calm to a paranoid frenzy that was ultimately the cause of countless deaths. The fear mongering here parallels that which took place when Communists were being targeted and tried for their thoughts and affiliations, whether they were real or not. I think most important is the idea that when people are viewed as different and not of the ideals of the majority, that this is license for them to be persecuted. Ironically, the reason that these two societies (those from each play) were in the United States in the first place was due to their ancestors’ persecution for being in a minority in their original home. I think hypocrisy is the ultimate idea that one can draw from these performances, and my opinion on why the Theater J chose to put on After the Fall comes from that idea. If you look at the persecution Muslims have endured since 9/11, the resistance to equality for the LGBT community, the issue of immigration, etc., it is clear that our society still has much to learn from the themes held within these artworks on how people who don’t conform to the majority-normative ideals should be treated.

  10. I thought the production of After The Fall was quite impressive. I enjoyed the nonlinear storyline of the play and the convincing leads. However, I still pose the same question: why this play, and why now? I don’t know how much this production adds to the overall conversation occurring in our nation at this moment. I hope to read some of my peers’ comments as to why Theater J decided to run this show in 2011.

    I’ve read a lot of great feedback above on After The Fall. I thought my post would be most productive if I focused a majority of my time on aspects of The Crucible, so I did just that below:

    The acting, for the most part, was believable. Certain characters needed improving on. Carol Baker, who played Rebecca Nurse, seemed to just be reciting lines instead of acting them. Mark A. Rhea, who played John Proctor, was losing his voice during the entire show. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I could understand what he was saying. But since his voice was so strained, I had trouble making out a lot of his speech. I found Sarah Lasko and Colin Smith, who played Abigail and Reverend Parris, to be quite believable. Their character choices were spot on, and I was really captivated by both of their performances.

    I think my favorite part of this show was the pacing of it. With a show like this, it’s really easy to take dramatic pauses and slow down the pace. For such a long show, it didn’t really feel like it because the actors were very on top of their pacing. The dialogue would jump from line to line to line without any pauses, which really kept me on my toes. I didn’t find myself becoming bored because the actors didn’t give me the chance to. Director Susan Marie Rhea really succeeded in that aspect, which is so difficult to achieve.

    However, there were some glaring flaws with the technical design of this show. The first being actor entrances and exits. There was apparently no backstage area, because when an actor wanted to enter, they had to walk through the audience, go around the set piece, and then enter the scene (often through a doorway). I found it extremely distracting to see actors entering and exiting through the audience. Another complaint of mine was the scenic design. Designer Mark A. Rhea gave the set two levels. The first act was done on the top level while the second, third, and fourth acts were performed on the bottom level. Having to strain my head up to see an entire act really bothered me. I know it may seem like a petty complaint, but it really took me out of the story because I had to adjust my positioning so my neck wouldn’t hurt. However, I was thankful that the rest of the show was at the bottom level. I thought that the rest of the scenic design was good. The Proctor home was well decorated and there was great detail in the props that
    were chosen. The costume and lighting designs were also good. They both reinforced the time period, time of day, and character choices in the show. Although there were some flaws with this production, it was fairly interesting and with a little bit of fixing, it could have a lot of promise. I challenge future directors to make their productions of The Crucible new and interesting. This show could have been great, but at the end of the day, but there were quite a few errors in judgment that made the play not feel fully-refined.

  11. After the Fall and The Crucible both confront relevant issues of their time and remain relevant today. The plays deal with issues surrounding morality, communism, individuality, and government and religious intervention. However, the plays are not equally successful in getting their points across. While the production of After The Fall was still a work in progress when I attended, I still believe that it fails to convey its message as effectively as The Crucible. There are four main reasons for this:

    1) After the Fall (ATF) deals with too many themes and attempts to convey many messages with a questionable degree of success rather than one or two messages well. This resulted in a play chalked full with narration that deals with reflections and issues too substantial to express and be absorbed by the audience in the allotted time.
    2) The Crucible is set in a historic context allowing the audience to feel sufficiently distanced from the action thus facilitating their participation and judgment. While this may mean less today, it was certainly essential considering the audience of the 1940s and 50s.
    3) ATF utilizes narration and dialogue as the primary form of expression, while The Crucible uses a more traditional array of costumes, set design, action, and dialogue to move the play forward. While narration and dialogue are powerful forms of expression, they can not stand alone for 150 minutes as the main force of the play while remaining effective. In the performance of ATF I saw, the set, projections, and other effects needed to take more of the responsibility in conveying the narrator’s message.
    4) The fixed chronological plot of The Crucible as opposed to the chaotic and seemingly random interjections of memories and thoughts in ATF affect the audiences’ reaction and reception to the play. ATF is difficult to follow and the audience can get caught up trying to keep track of the play, this detracts from the energy and time the audience dedicates to absorbing and responding to the message being conveyed.

    These reasons make The Crucible more effective as a political play and more enjoyable as a performance.

  12. Before going to see either “After the Fall” or “The Crucible,” I only knew of Arthur Miller as a prominent playwright. I was not familiar with his personal life (married to Marilyn Monroe or being a UM alum (I’m from ND)) or the background of the two plays we saw last week. However, after seeing “After the Fall”, I have a better idea of the life of Arthur Miller.

    For me, “After the Fall,” is broken down into two sections. The first section (the act before the intermission) was incredibly confusing. I was not sure what was going on for most of it. I understood the general ideas: Quentin and his friends seemingly Communist past coming to haunt them, so to speak, due to McCarthy and the red scare of the age. I also understood the theme presented by Quentin when looking back at his failed relationships with women when figuring out if he should pursue a new love interest, Holga. I don’t understand what the two themes have to do with one another, so the jumping between themes was rather annoying. I kept thinking how much better this play would have been if it stuck with Quentin’s reflection of past loves. However, the play is entitled “After the Fall” so there must be some importance to the Communist theme in the mind of Arthur Miller. While being utterly confused throughout most of the first act (seeing random people coming in and out of the scene, or Holga so involved with flowers, for instance), I enjoyed some parts of the first act and the play overall. The actor who played Quentin and the actress who played Maggie were phenomenal. They were wholly involved in their characters, and the play was better for it. I liked how the same actress played his first wife, I can’t remember her name, and his mother. The inference from that was incredibly powerful. Kudos to whoever’s idea that was.

    The second section of the play was incredibly emotional. During intermission, I used my phone to do more research on this play so I could understand it better. From there I found out about Miller’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe and the play’s critique of that relationship. With that in mind, the second section was incredibly powerful to me. Less emphasis was given to the Communist angle of the play and more to the good part: the drama between Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe…ehh I mean Maggie. I saw just how much Quentin loved Maggie, even while she was tearing her life apart. Whether it be the physical fight between the two because Quentin was trying to get Maggie’s pills or Quentin saving Maggie’s life after trying to kill herself, I saw such incredible sorrow in this act. For me, this play shows just how horrible being in love really is. Quentin saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in Maggie, yet in my viewing of the play, he always loved her. It really contrasts with the sunshine and rainbows representation of love fed to us by Hollywood, nowadays. Because of this, I really liked this act.

  13. Both “After the Fall” and “The Crucible” were emotionally draining experiences. The actors and actresses grabbed my attention with ease and pulled me into their lives beautifully. At the end of The Crucible I found myself not wanting to applaud the young girls of Salem village because I was mad at them! I have not experienced too many productions in my life that my emotions carried on after it ended as strongly as The Crucible. Both were thought provoking, depressing, dramatic, and entertaining productions and I am thrilled I had the chance to see them.

    Both plays surrounded their story lines around many themes of human emotion and experience. Loyalty, betrayal and relationships were only a couple demonstrated. But one of the most important themes both productions revolve their storylines around is the importance of being an individual. In After the Fall, Quentin uses memories to make sense of his world and piece together who he is, what he believes in, and how he will continue on with a new romantic relationship. No one has the power to retrieve memories except for the person who stores them, and it is the power to store moments of your past for present use that distinguishes people as a separate entity, especially because those moments are what shape future decisions. Quentin knew he was an individual entity compared to his wives and mother, yet the problems they struggled with diminished his trust in people as well as his confidence in being a “decent husband.” The power his individual memories have on him are so strong it is hard to part from them and allow himself to trust and love someone new. It is important for Quentin to realize that like himself, Holga is also an individual with her own struggles but she is not the same person as Luis, Maggie, or his mother, and she deserves her chance to be part of his life. The struggle of the individual is one of the most challenging experiences anyone will ever face, but knowing how to learn from the past to better your future is also a challenge that needs to be overcome in order to continue to live.

    The Crucible also demonstrated the importance of being an individual. In the last scene John declares he doesn’t want his confession posted on the church door because it has his name on it and it is one thing he will never have again. The importance of a name is the fact that you are only given one and so your actions and name become known as one entity. Knowing this derives John from giving his confession to the judge and encourages him to be a good dignified man, which in the play is demonstrated by being put to death. As an audience member I wanted John to live for his wife and children’s sake but knew that if he had survived he would have given humanity the power of taking away the most important aspect of being a human being, individuality.

  14. After the fall provides many concepts of a “good future” that exerts what the view of solidarity is and should be. “After the Fall” represents the longing for the mains character Quentin’s solidarity is exemplified through a society in which social relations are based on complimentary differences that produce and are united through emotional wanting to be loved and love.

    The sense of Quentin’s wanting to be loved, in addition, is inclusive of specialized individuals and parts that are in relation with society via a collective effort.

    The deterioration of the division that Quintin creates for himself is the milestone representing the creation of a system of moral cooperation, that allows the individuals around him to view his life with significance as it is part of a macro goal: to love, within society at large . This is to say that his self imposed division will cultivate the unification of his own love by allowing a sentiment of interdependence to come about; establishing the intensification of individual roles and pursuits .

    We see the same thematic concepts in “The Crucible” as Abigail is representative of the longing for love from a place that is not attainable without the destruction of a unified love. “After the Fall” and “The Crucible” made me very angry and upset; but after thinking about both plays, Isn’t that the goal of any production?

  15. “After the Fall,” as a whole, was probably my favorite show that we have seen this season. Though the small amount of actors casted to play many people did lead to some initial confusion, the doubling of roles was a very effective way to portray the connections that they had in Quentin’s life. I found myself identifying with Quentin on many levels throughout the play, and as a whole his character spoke to me more than anyone else from previous shows. His story and his interactions with friends and family often show his struggles with balancing loyalty and love for them. I like the fact that though he is a genuine man, the depth of his character doesn’t stop at appearing to be completely selfless.

    Using the same actress to portray both Quentin’s mother and his wife helps the viewer to draw the lines that parallel between the two characters. This situation alone speaks to Arthur Miller’s own inner struggle with love and finding himself. His first divorce and relationship with Maggie might be a result of his own fame and recognition, coupled with a bit of a midlife crisis. The black and white differences between Maggie and Louise make it seem like his relationship with Maggie might be Quentin lashing out at his past life, and that it is almost forced in nature. Quentin convinces himself that this is the high profile and counter-conventional marriage that he should want, weather he really sees that inside himself or not.

    Though the set design was a bit abstract, the ability to work with such a minimalist setup was impressive in my eyes. As we discussed after, the projections, though helpful to the set, could have been a bit more involving to the performance. I could only recall a couple of the backdrops after the show had ended, and I think that they could be used to a greater extent.

    Despite the initial confusion from all the different characters being introduced in a short time frame, the show continued to develop and hold my interest throughout. Though this was not one of Miller’s more highly regarded works, I enjoyed the show and the character driven nature that it brought with it.

    • I very much agree with what you said about Quentin’s marriage to Maggie and that this may have been Quentin lashing out at his previous marriage to Louise. To tell you the truth, I did not think of that up until this point. That leads me to think, then, what does Quentin’s relationship to Holga signify? To me, this might be an attempt to find equilibrium between his two previous marriages, and also equilibrium in life. Throughout the past that Quentin experienced, he has experienced many extreme times (of which the flashbacks illustrated), and I believe that his end actions with Holga try to rectify the two sides.

      • Oops! Wow, I didn’t see Alex’s response before writing mine. Sorry if I basically repeated his ideas! And I ALSO agree with Alex’s notion that Holga represents a new beginning of equilibrium for Quentin. More than equilibrium, but also understanding and compromise. In the end, Quentin seems to make up his mind to further the relationship with Holga, reasoning that Holga understands that we (human beings) are dangerous. He decides that Holga can understand that things could go wrong, yet she is hopeful that things will go right, like he is.

    • I completely agree with your comment about Quentin’s second marriage. Seeing the play for a second time gave me many new realizations, including the one that you make here. In the second act, Quentin says to Maggie in frustration: “We used each other!” At that moment it became clear to me that indeed both Maggie and Quentin are equally to blame for the faults of their marriage. Maggie, eager to have someone care for her in an almost paternal way, casted Quentin in exactly that light. And Quentin, yearning to be adored, gladly accepted this perception from Maggie. In the end, both of them feel betrayed by the other because they believe they were not able to live up to each others’ expectation. Thus, I agree that Quentin rushed into a relationship hastily with Maggie, and that he made himself believe that this woman was right for him while totally ignoring her flaws.

  16. This week our class had the privilege of watching two Arthur Miller works- After the Fall and The Crucible. Prior to my attendance, I felt very little connection to Arthur Miller, apart from the fact he was a Michigan alum, and there was a theatre named in his honor on campus. However, after watching After the Fall, which was a very personal play reflecting Miller’s life, I began to understand the dramatist as an individual, and his relationships.

    One of the biggest criticisms of this play has been the non-linear format, however, it is this format that I enjoyed most. A piece written to reflect the character Quentin’s thought and memory- followed exactly the process of thought-it jumps from element to element, across time, and across relations. The tiered layout of the stage, made it possible to understand the time travel in Quentin’s thoughts. Throughout this play, one message presented itself repeatedly, and that was Quentin’s desire to be understood and loved. In his effort to be honest, he was chastised, but also withholding thought resulted in the same punishment.

    The tiered structure of the stage also enabled the transition of time throughout the play, as well as the simultaneous presentation of different times (i.e, the past wives, and girlfriend enter in one scene). The actors also did a seamless job in playing multiple characters. The double role of the first wife and Quentin’s mother, added depth to the complex relationship that he has with the two women, and the resemblance among the women.

  17. After the Fall, for all of its abstraction, made a great deal of structural sense to me. As Quentin narrates his thought process while waiting for his love at the airport, he has to navigate through all of his memories and make sense of them to solve the question that (I believe) lurks in his mind: “Can I move on and start a new relationship with Holga?”

    To me, this play reflects the logical thought process of a man coming to grips with this ambiguous question and attempting to answer it. First it starts with abstraction, but over time it boils down to the main “flashes” in Quentin’s life that seem to plague him the most (the differences between the first and second acts in the play). I can see however, when the same actors are used to portray different people in this play, one might get confused, but I also feel that this adds to the complexity of the play: some characters are meant to have some of the same characteristics as others, and using the same actors can lead the viewer to make this connection.
    It is important to note as well that normally when one thinks in real life (as I bet that most people do- I myself do), thoughts are not necessarily in a complete chronological order, at times repeat themselves, and are unique to the person thinking them.
    This being said, I do not believe that one can come away from this play feeling as though Quentin “solved” his question, but rather that he has made peace enough to give it another shot. This play reminded me of a quote that I seem to be referencing a lot these days: “life is an ever-continuing process of becoming.” I feel that this play is a look into how Quentin (in real life, Arthur Miller), was able to “become” what he is at the conclusion, and offers the viewer the ability to learn from this journey.

  18. I think Munmun did a great job in analyzing the non-linear format of After the Fall. Oddly enough, that was one of the aspects I liked most about the play and I thought it was interesting that not many people enjoyed it. Seeing as how Quentin is going through his own personal memories, it would make sense that it’s not so much chronology that matters as the relevance of those conjured memories to the story, and ultimately point, he is trying to make. I think the lack of attention to a timeline takes the emphasis off of cold, hard facts and highlights the feelings he has, which underscore his major internal struggle at the moment.

    However, I also think that there was a linear element to the play which concerned Quentin’s character. I felt that he underwent a transformation from being the person who shied away from being close to his first wife and being the source of drama in their relationship at the beginning, to be being in the exact opposite position in his relationship with Maggie because he was trying to be true to himself.

  19. This week our class got the opportunity to enjoy two plays by Arther Miller, After The Fall and The Crucible. I thoroughly liked both plays even though they where both very different in content and execution.
    After the Fall was an interesting look into the mind of a man trying to come to grips with his past love lives before he decides to marry again. The top of the first act was confusing, to say the least. The dialogue moved so fast that it took me a while to understand what was going on in the characters mind. Once the story got over that bump in the road I started to appreciate the depth of the characters memories and clues into his insecurities about love. Although the use of one person to play multiple characters was confusing in some ways, I did like that the same actress played both his mother and first wife because in a way, it was saying that when he married his first wife, he married someone like his mother which is why he might have had superficial feelings for her. My thought is because he knew how is mother and father’s relationship was strong (played out in the scene when he tells his father of his mother’s death) he felt he needed a woman that was the same even if he did not really love or care for her, therefore making his feelings superficial. Also his own feelings towards his mother are mixed because she lied to him as a child about many things. This is always why it was hard for him to mourn his mothers death and the failing marriage to his first wife. I get a sense of mistrust and disappointment from both relationships.
    I also find it insightful that this play mirrors Miller’s own life, especially with his failed marriage to Marylyn Monroe, which is clearly mirrored in the play. The progression of her counterpart, Maggie, was a dramatic one but well played out. Knowing the history made it easier for me to get into the message of the play and take a look into my own love life and how my relationship with the men in my life will determine how I feel about love.
    My only criticism of this play is that it was very dialogue-heavyand could have used some weeding out, and by weeding I mean that to me some of the scenes between Quentin, Lou, and Mickey where not necessary and did not make sense to me and that the parts about McCarthy should be left out all together because it is confusing. In my opinion it didn’t fit in with the play and made it hard for the viewer to understand why it was important to the overall message.
    The crucible is a classic piece, and by classic I mean that many people have read it and use it as a piece of writing that many people should read to understand the fundamentals good literature. I have never read it but had been familiar with the storyline. The overall production was great. The costumes where [were] very well put together the actors were great. I found myself wanting to punch Abigail in the face because of how the actress really made me dislike her (This is a good thing!) I read that this story is supposed to be another look into McCarthyism, which makes for a interesting context (by context I mean, background in and understanding of the major themes in the story.) Thinking that a [an] entire town can be turned against their community members on the word of a few rebellious girls is intriguing and troubling. I have no complaints about this production at all! Hat’s off to the cast and crew.

  20. This week we saw two very interesting plays, and while both plays evoked strong emotions within me, I felt After the Fall was much more thought provoking. Even now, almost a week after viewing the play, I am not completely sure where I stand with the play, there were parts that I loved, parts that I strongly disliked, and parts that left me utterly confused. However, the fact that I am still thinking about the play days after seeing it, leads me to believe that the play is definetly doing something right.

    As many of my peers have commented on, the first half of the show was extremely confusing. I came into the play with very little background information and I felt lost and frustrated as I attempted to understand who was who and what was going on. The characters came in and out of the scene so quickly that I was unable to tell who they were and at what point in time they were speaking (the past or the present). Because of this confusion, after the first hour I was completely checked out and ready to go home.
    However, once the second part began and the scene grew in length and clarity, I slowly began to ease into the play. I began to understand and enjoy the structure of the play. And the scenes between Maggie and Quentin were incredible, the acting was amazing. It was only in the second part that I was able to appreciate the dilema of the main character as he struggled to trust others and himself. Through his constant flash backs I was able to see how certain moments in his life had marked his outlook on life-something that everyone can relate to. It was in this second part that the play became real and raw, I began to see it as Quentin completely opening up to us on stage and stripping off the layers of expereinces which had affected his life while he himself came to acknowledge and move forward from them.
    So, while there were many things that bothered me within this play, in the end, I was really able to feel the desperation and anxiety and hurt that Quetin felt and I was able to understand the play in a way much more profound than I had understood other plays

  21. Do I worth your love?

    Thanks for Joanie for raising the similarity between Quentin and John Proctor. It provokes me with the question: What’s the meaning for reproducing the classic After the Fall?

    The specter haunting Europe (Communism, Marx’s own word) has fade away as time passes by. The fear against it has shifted to the fear of terrorism. New challenges are confronted by America and other parts of the world as well, from the debt crisis to annoyed 99%. It seems like the future of US, as well as the world, is in chaos. In such a great pressure, we can’t stop crying out: What is the future of America? What’s the future of the world? It’s the same question raised by Quentin:”What’s the future of me?”

    The Crucible answers this question with certainty. Yes. John Proctor lost the trust from his wife because of confession on his inappropriate relationship with Abigail, but he won it back with his genuineness when they meet in prison. Countless mistakes are carried out in the human history, but there are also countless solutions for them. Legal segregation laws were carried out, but it’s reputed by Civil Right Act of 1964.

    If I were Quentin, I would say: “I worth your love, even though I’ve made countless mistakes in my life, because “I love you out of myself.”

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