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As America’s pandemic-shuttered drama companies prepare to reopen, many of them are still webcasting plays to divert frustrated theater lovers who haven’t seen a show in person for nearly 14 months. Most are newly staged, but some are either archival videos (usually of good technical quality) made by the companies in question or performances that were previously taped for television. Some of the TV outlets that aired those performances have since posted them on their own websites. The WNET Group, for instance, has posted several plays that were originally seen on “Theater Close-Up,” a public TV series that sporadically telecast off-Broadway productions.
One of the “Theater Close-Up” webcasts that I’m just getting around to watching is “Incident at Vichy,” one of Arthur Miller’s lesser-known plays, which had its premiere in 1964 and was revived by New York’s Signature Theater 51 years later and telecast in 2016. Like so many of Miller’s plays, it is sounder in conception than in execution, but it gains in concentration from being viewed at home, and this production, directed by Michael Wilson, works even better as a webcast than it did when I saw it in the theater in 2015….
“Incident at Vichy” is set in “a place of detention” somewhere in Vichy France in 1942. The action takes place in the grubby waiting room of an office where Nazi detectives are interrogating a group consisting mainly of Frenchmen. They appear to have little else in common, though, and it turns out that what we have here is a “Grand Hotel”-like tale in which a cross-section of humanity is brought together, wound up, and set in dramatic motion….
This is a superbly promising idea for a play, but the trouble with “Incident at Vichy” is that Miller doesn’t infuse it with much stage action. Instead, his characters give speeches, lots and lots of speeches, all of them in the well-known Miller manner, at once preachy and prosy…
* * *Read the whole thing here.