Arthur Miller was a man of exceptional stature, and not just intellectually.
I, a shrimp of five feet, can personally attest to his six-foot -plus height, having been in the room when the British edition of Miller’s groundbreaking autobiography Timebends was launched, in 1987, in the playwright’s presence. Did I, on tip-toe, exchange profound insights with the great man? Sad to report, no. I was an editorial minnow at the time and bigger fish at the publishing house were monopolizing him. However, his poise and aura, as well as his loftiness, were unforgettable.
Miller died in 2005 but his relevance and plays live on, as Westchester theater-lovers will have the opportunity to rediscover in March, when the M&M Performing Arts Company – the resident drama company at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown – will be presenting his classic play The Price.
M&M, led by husband-and-wife team Melinda O’Brien and Michael Muldoon, started life in 2000, as a touring company offering six shows per year in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, often preforming in libraries. Lyndhurst approached them in 2012, attracted to their winter show Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol which has been performed at Lyndhurst every year since, excepting 2020, because of Covid.
“We love going to work in such a beautiful building,” says O’Brien, pointing out their shows take place when the mansion is closed to visitors and therefore bring in cultural and financial benefits at otherwise quiet periods. “We offer summer theater and lend actors to help with their Halloween shows.” Another popular fall show is Sherlock Holmes, a Scandal in Bohemia and their productions often move around within the building, from room to room.
“We are always looking for dramas that will work in the mansion, and The Price, with its small cast, is perfect,” continues O’Brien. “It’s a four-hander and we will be presenting it upstairs in the Grand Picture Gallery, a beautiful room with a lot of artwork. That fits really well with the play, which is about two brothers who have been estranged for 16 years. Their father, who lost all his money in the 1929 crash, has been living in the attic of a brownstone with his remaining furniture and art, but the father has died, the house is due to be demolished, and the brothers need to get together and make decisions about what to do.
“The gallery isn’t quite as shabby as the play’s scenario, but it will make a great background,” O’Brien said. “And we are of course caretakers as well as actors, so no one can touch anything and we will take as good care of the room as Lyndhurst itself does.”
Krysten Hastings-Silver, assistant director and collections manager at Lyndhurst, commented: “Our involvement with M&M began ten years ago when Lyndhurst was diversifying its offerings and looking for a theater company to develop productions that could be staged in the mansion, following the nineteenth-century custom of performing theatricals at home. We offer three productions per season with them and M&M does a tremendous job, with the house both as the backdrop and the main character.”
And here’s a special feature. The company for The Price includes a member of the River Journal family, Bruce Apar, editorial director and associate publisher of River Journal North, as well as playwright and 100% theater devotee. He plays Gregory Solomon, a role played by Danny DeVito, amongst others. The character is described by one critic as “a blissfully comic creation who, at first, appears to have wandered in from a Neil Simon play, but who is well aware this is his last chance to defy time.”
Performances run from March 4 to March 20, tickets cost $45 and are available at the Lyndhurst website. All tickets must be purchased in advance and ticket holders must show proof of vaccination and booster, if eligible, and wear masks. No one under 12 will be admitted. The play runs for about 80 minutes without intermission.
PHOTO: LYNDHURST GALLERY
CAPTION: The show will be presented in the Grand Picture Gallery. (Photo courtesy of Lyndhurst, A Site of the National Trust)