As always, the National Theater Live company put on a compelling show, paying tribute to our very own Arthur Miller, who attended the University of Michigan and even has a theater named after him on North Campus. The show is a classic, and it was well acted. Going into it blind, its twists took me by surprise and the way the play ended certainly shocked me. (Don’t worry, no spoilers!) This play aimed viewers’ attention much more on the acting, which was very different from the last National Theater Live play I saw, which was much more focused on the integration of acting, set, and costume.
The show begins in the backyard of the family of whom the show is centered around. And then they stay there, in that setting, for the whole show. I thought that was a very interesting choice with both pros and cons. First, I got a bit bored of that same setting, and I had expected it to change after intermission. Also, there was certainly a limit as to what could be performed or shown on a stagnant set. Despite these possible setbacks, the show was full and interesting nonetheless. The play was less focused on anything besides the words and acting, and the actors brought that forward well. The acting was thankfully good enough to keep the show from getting boring, because the production was barely more than just the actors on the stage as the set was unchanging. On the pros side, this also meant that the set could be very detailed and specific because it did not need to be moved in any way. This style was unlike plays I have seen before, usually with moving sets and gaudy costumes, and it sort of surprised me, although not necessarily in a bad way.
As the actors had the most prominent role to play in a performance with a stationary set, they were definitely the thing I focused most on. I was impressed by the range of each actor, although I thought the men played much stronger than the women (other than Sally Field of course). Their emotions were certainly strong, but I was surprised that I was unmoved, and did not feel very attached to the characters. I did enjoy the performance of Oliver Johnstone playing George Deever, the frazzled and angry brother who unravels the whole lie that the Keller family is keeping. He was the actor whose story I bought the most into, and I felt his pain when no one believed his claims. I liked that the cast was very small, and I thought it helped to keep the focus of the performance on the story being told.
Overall, I thought the play was a little boring and drawn out. I do think that the intended audience was a bit older than me, judging by the fact that the majority of the crowd was above the age of 50. Perhaps if I had done some previous research to understand the themes better, it would have been a more enjoyable show. But, I did have a pleasant experience watching the play and enjoying the superb acting!