Arthur Miller is arguably America's greatest living playwright. That, well in his 80s, he continues to provide the theatre with insightful, significant new plays is a reason for rejoicing. The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, which opened last night at the Ambassador Theatre, when compared to his earlier work - All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, After the Fall, The Price and many others - clearly shows that Mr. Miller still has quite a few things to say, and is saying them in an even more polished and technically proficient way than ever before.
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan tells the story of a rich, greedy, selfish man who is so afraid of his own death, he is insensitive to the repercussions of his actions on the emotions of those he claims to care most deeply about. It's a subject for high drama, but oddly enough the fine cast, under the able direction of David Esbjornson, plays the play with such straight-forward, uncomplicated honesty that an astonishing amount of humor emerges. Indeed, there are a number of scenes in Mt. Morgan which could easily be mistaken for classic Neil Simon. For what it's worth, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan has more good, solid laughs in it than any other play currently on Broadway.
Which may be its biggest problem.
The humor, and the slick production values - impressive scenic design by John Arnone, superb lighting by Brian MacDevitt, and some absolutely "on the nose" original music by Dan Moses Schreier - conspire to give Mt. Morgan a schizophrenic quality seemingly at odds with the play Mr. Miller appears to have written. It's an easy play to enjoy, but you leave the theatre wondering why you feel a bit empty, why you weren't more involved with the story.
Patrick Stewart gives a daring, darkly brilliant performance, as do Frances Conroy and Katy Selverstone as his two wives. Shannon Burkett, as his daughter, is a bit strident but serviceable. Oni Faida Lampley brings an easy compassion to her all too brief scenes. John C. Vennema, when he isn't being used purely for exposition, strikes just the right note of incredulity.
Overall, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan is worth seeing, if just because it's an Arthur Miller play and for the performances of a well assembled and well directed cast. But don't go expecting to be emotionally engaged. You'll be impressed and laugh a lot, but nothing more.
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan by Arthur Miller. Directed by David Esbjornson. Starring Patrick Stewart. Also starring Frances Conroy, with Shannon Burkett, Oni Faida Lampley, Katy Selverstone, John C. Vennema. Scenic design by John Arnone. Costume design by Elizabeth Hope Clancy. Lighting design by Brian MacDevitt. Sound design and original music by Dan Moses Schreier.
Theatre: Ambassador Theatre, 215 West 49th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM.
Audience: May be inappropriate for ages 13 and younger. Children under 4 are not permitted into the theatre.
Ticket prices: $65 and $55
Standing Room: $20 Available only at the Box Office and only when the performance is sold out
Tickets online: TeleCharge
Tickets by phone: TeleCharge at (212) 239-6200, or outside the New York metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6:30 PM
Tickets by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets by Snail mail: The Ride Down Mount Morgan, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998