×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan

A high-minded discourse on love, hate, betrayal and bigamy, Arthur Miller's "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" contains enough provocative and penetrating insights to justify award recognition, but it works more as a philosophical treatise than as cohesive drama.

With:
Lyman - Stephen Macht Nurse Logan - Earnestine Phillips Theo - Ellen Geer Bessie - Willow Geer Leah - Melora Marshall Tom - William Dennis Hunt

A high-minded discourse on love, hate, betrayal and bigamy, Arthur Miller’s “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan” contains enough provocative and penetrating insights to justify award recognition, but it works more as a philosophical treatise than as cohesive drama.

Never stated is the startling resemblance Miller’s main character, Lyman (Stephen Macht), bears to the playwright’s colleague Elia Kazan. Like Lyman, Kazan — as autobiography “A Life” details — was a serial philanderer, a man who deceived his women and lived each day to the narcissistic hilt because he feared death’s ever-present shadow.

In “Mt. Morgan,” the central figure is an insurance exec, whose Porsche goes out of control and plunges down a slippery mountain. Seriously injured and placed in an upstate New York hospital, he must face the consequences of his bigamy when two wives, Theo (Ellen Geer) and Leah (Melora Marshall), visit his bedside and become uncomfortably aware of each other.

The situation is ripe with possibilities, and Macht’s bombastic, often comical portrayal gives the play a jangling energy. Macht treats his role as a juicy star turn, appropriate for a character defined as a recklessly sexual, “splendidly hungry man.”

He jokes with sympathetic Nurse Logan (Earnestine Phillips, in an amusing perf), and frequently overcomes the speech-heavy aspects of his part with explosive bravado. He barrels through such lines as “I walk in the valley of your thighs,” and slams across the cruelly selfish aspects of a greedy, grown-up child who can’t comprehend why he isn’t entitled to the devotion of two spouses.

Suspense and dread — which used to be signature Miller specialties — are in short supply, since we never feel that Lyman will reconcile with either wife. Where Macht’s characterization works is in showing how a man can rationalize to himself so consistently that he believes his lies and actually coats them with virtue.

Act one benefits from Heidi Davis’ boldly passionate direction, and it’s a disappointment when act two grows increasingly diffused and overlong. At first, Miller is careful to delineate sharply between Lyman’s wives — Geer’s educated, Waspy Theo and Marshall’s sexually liberated Jewish Leah — but when the women meet, their clashes are too lightweight, and they never have that one confrontation that would set the stage on fire.

Despite a lack of potent interaction with each other, each actress makes the most of her character. Geer capably projects the horror of knowing that she often bores her husband, and does wonders with moments expressing shock that the fearful man she lived with for over three decades became a hell-raising daredevil after hooking up with Leah.

Marshall catches the complexity of a young woman who has no underlying faith in romantic permanence, and touchingly conveys concern for the young son left stranded and torn apart by Lyman’s treachery. The actress skillfully shows that Leah, on a deeper level, understands that her husband is a rogue, yet adores him so much she stifled such issues.

As the compassionate, confused family attorney, William Dennis Hunt gives strength to an undeveloped personality that exists as a device to dispense direction and wisdom. His role is much like the cardboard lawyer confidante in “A View From the Bridge,” but when he gets a chance at a gripping theatrical moment — such as the cry “You must all stop loving him” — he gives it credibility and power.

Even thinner is the part of Lyman’s unforgiving daughter, Bessie (Willow Geer), whose reactions rarely venture beyond an angry “I’m only here because of Mother” attitude.

In the end, Lyman’s bigamy situation emerges as less compelling than his panic about advancing age, and when he screams, “Fuck death and dying,” the play bursts beyond commentary and forcefully addresses a universal fear.

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan

Theatricum Botanicum, Los Angeles; 300 seats; $25 top

Production: A Theatricum Botanicum presentation of a play in two acts by Arthur Miller. Directed by Heidi Davis.

Crew: Lighting, Jeff Teeter; stage manager, Marjorie Vander Hoff; technical director, Pete Parkin. Opened July 30, 2005. Reviewed July 31; runs through Oct. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: Lyman - Stephen Macht Nurse Logan - Earnestine Phillips Theo - Ellen Geer Bessie - Willow Geer Leah - Melora Marshall Tom - William Dennis HuntWith: Kate Britton, Jason Greenfield, Paula Thomas.

More Scene

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]

  • CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 18:

    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Dua Lipa Tom Jones

    Dua Lipa and Tom Jones to Perform at amfAR's Cannes Gala (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety‘s Marc Malkin is on the scene at the Cannes Film Festival. Get the scoop on all the news, parties and more straight from the Croisette below. AmfAR’s upcoming Cannes gala is shaping up quite nicely. Sources tell Variety that the evening will feature performances by Dua Lipa and Tom Jones. And they’re not the only [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content