MEMORIES OF DISASTERS ARE JARRED BY TWO PLAYS

Times Theater Critic

Last spring, with the Challenger disaster still fresh in everybody's mind, Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" (1947) seemed a very pertinent play at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

The New York critics felt the same way about the play's Broadway revival this week. Indeed, Frank Rich of the New York Times found Miller's story almost too topical: a manufacturer sending out a batch of fatally defective airplane parts. "So what else is new?"

But Rich thought that director Arvin Brown had done nicely in soft-pedaling Miller's message and bringing out the reality of the family at the center of Miller's story. He especially liked Richard Kiley as the manufacturer, Joe Keller--"a man unable to make the connection between his own loss and the wreckage he cavalierly inflicts on others."

The UPI's Frederick Winship thought that the play "strikes a chord that echoes with resonance in today's world of ruthless profiteering." The AP's Mary Campbell said that "it still packs a theatrical punch." Clive Barnes of the New York Post called it "a reminder of a Broadway now lost."

True enough. This production comes from Brown's Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven.

Then came the Chernobyl disaster. One of the first journalists to the site was the science editor of Pravda, Vladimir S. Gubaryev. He put his response in the form of a play, "Sarcophagus." It has had several Soviet productions and will be seen at the Los Angeles Theatre Center next season.

Currently "Sarcophagus" is being performed at Vienna's Volkstheater. George Jahn of AP reports that "the stage is transformed into the clinically sterile room of a special institute for radiation sickness in Moscow. The victims' version of how and why the catastrophe happened is at the same time a condemnation of stagnation, opportunism and corruption among Soviet officialdom."

For example, "the director of the nuclear plant admits that protective suits against radiation were never ordered for the plant's firefighters, because no one thought they would be needed."

"All My Sons" all over again.

Steven Berkoff has been described as "a London playwright more admired in L.A. than New York." At the moment Berkoff is back home in London, performing in his own "Decadence."

We had it at L.A. Theatreworks in '84. Berkoff and Linda Marlowe play two couples. One are upper-class snobs. One are lower-class slobs. Both are hateful.

As usual with Berkoff plays, the London critics were violently divided. Sometimes within the course of the same article.

Wrote David Shannon in Sunday Today: "The sight of Berkoff throwing up on a settee, wiping up the mess with his hanky and then using it to mop his brow is not one you will quickly forget.

"But the play is worth seeing. Filthy it may be--heartless, passionless and pointless it isn't. See it, and then complain."

IN QUOTES. Glenda Jackson in Charles Marowitz's "Prospero's Staff" (Indiana University Press): "Great plays are great plays because they survive the tampering of idiots over the centuries."

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