Arthur miller incident at vichy
An enemy of the people
Eight men and a boy are apprehended by collaborationist authorities in Vichy France in 1942 and forced to wait in a building that appears to be a police station. Some of them are of Jewish ancestry. If not from the Nazis, then from their fellow prisoners and, perhaps, from themselves, they all have something to hide. All is guillotined in this claustrophobic antechamber to the death camps.
Eight men and a boy are apprehended by collaborationist authorities in Vichy France in 1942 and forced to wait in a building that appears to be a police station. Some of them are of Jewish ancestry. If not from the Nazis, then from their fellow prisoners and, perhaps, from themselves, they all have something to hide. All is complicit in this claustrophobic antechamber to the death camps. Perhaps none more so than those who are able to make it out alive. Arthur Miller re-creates Dante’s hell inside the gaping pit that is our past in Incident at Vichy, populating it with sinners whose sins are all the more terrifying because they are so familiar. “One of our time’s most important plays… Incident at Vichy restores the theater to its former glory.” The New York Times contributed to this article.
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Miller’s film, set in the detention room of a Vichy police station in 1942, examines how hysteria among those detained by the Nazis could quickly spiral into guilt and terror, making it all too convenient for the Holocaust perpetrators. Ten men are waiting for their names to be called. The tense and anxious conversation begins with a question about why they are there (random pick-up, routine search on their papers), but it soon becomes clear that some (or the majority) are Jews fleeing German-occupied northern France for the southern, ‘unoccupied’ Free Zone. The play explores the reactions of the different characters (some of whom aren’t even given names: Gipsy, Waiter, Boy, Old Jew) to the increasingly terrifying circumstances in which they find themselves. Even after communist railway worker Bayard (powerful Brendan O’Rourke) warns of cattle trucks full of people heading to rumored death camps in Poland, some hope beyond hope that all will work out. Others advocate for direct action, at least among the able-bodied. Is there such a thing as “poor” Germans and “passive” Jews? There are serial confrontations in this classic morality play laying out the choices of good and evil between man and man, and especially within man himself, that reveal just how many points there can be on the so-called moral compass.
After the fall
A group of men sit outside an office in Vichy France in 1942, waiting to be interviewed. It’s self-evident that they were dragged off the street and taken there. For the most part, they are Jews. But it’s unclear how severe this offense is or how they’ll be punished, so they hope for the best. But, despite reassuring themselves that nothing so monstrous could be real, their panic grows as rumors of trains full of people locked from the outside and furnaces in Poland circulate.
Arthur Miller, an American playwright, was born in New York City in 1915. Miller received an Academy Award for his comedy The Grass Still Grows in 1938. Death of a Salesman, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award in 1949, was his crowning achievement. The Crucible was written in response to a nationwide congressional inquiry into terrorist activity in the United States, and it received the Tony Award for Best Drama in 1953. Timebends: A Life, Miller’s autobiography, was published in 1987.
The price arthur miller summary
“The only thing possible for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing,” said Irish philosopher Edmund Burke. This oft-quoted maxim is central to Arthur Miller’s seldom staged masterpiece, set in a Vichy detention center in the middle of WWII.
A number of men are dragged there against their will, many of whom are directly or indirectly Jewish, and they begin to speculate about their fate. Interrogation means intermittent visits by German police, flanked by the perfunctory Professor Hoffman (Timothy Harker), and one by one these men vanish. Fresh hell plays with their nerves as the door slams shut, gruesomely clanking.
This is a fantastic production, a timely look at the horrors of ethnic cleansing and the persistence that enables it to continue unabated. According to the producer, Phil Willmott, this production of Incident at Vichy is the first to be viewed without a “naturalistic cast,” allowing the audience to be free of “naturalism standards.” Indeed, the whitewashed space, which is only furnished with a long whitewashed bench, does an excellent job of emphasizing the purgatorial qualities of the play. It’s an appropriate dispassionate setting for a piece that expertly grapples with evil’s ineffability.