Theater for the New City to Present THE UNAMERICAN

Theater for the New City Executive Director Crystal Field is presenting this Textile Co. production Feb. 24 to March 13 at TNC, 155 First Ave., between 9th and 10th Sts.

By: Jan. 18, 2022

Theater for the New City to Present THE UNAMERICAN

In American history, few entities stand out like the House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC as an example of political theater of the first, and most dangerous, order. On June 21, 1956, HUAC called before it one of its more well-known witnesses: Arthur Miller was interrogated, while his fiancée, Marilyn Monroe, watched in the wings.

The little told story of Miller, Marilyn and Elia Kazan, the noted director who had been Miller's friend and Marilyn's lover, is the subject matter for The Unamerican, a new play written by Claude Solnik and directed by  Joseph John Battista.

Theater for the New City Executive Director Crystal Field is presenting this Textile Co. production Feb. 24 to March 13 at TNC, 155 First Ave., between 9th and 10th Sts.

The result is a wonderful opportunity to see a riveting, powerful show with top-notch actors at rock-bottom prices consistent with TNC's mission to provide access to audiences eager for theater.

Tickets are $18 and $15 for seniors and students for this production with actors from Broadway to film and TV in a show with substance and soul.

"The Unamerican brings history back to life and tells the story of a trio whose relationships, loyalties and loves were tested under fire," said Battista, who views the script and story as both timely and timeless. "The play follows their lives with the hearings as a kind of lens."

A talented cast includes Albert Insinnia (who appeared on Broadway in Camelot as Mordred with Richard Harris and the original Broadway production of Grease as well as in TV and film) as Elia Kazan; Victorious Konig portrays Marilyn Monroe and Andrew Ryan Perry rounds out the trio as Arthur Miller.

Michael Donato plays the HUAC chairman and Paige Susan Anderson appears as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, haunting the hearings, while Tony Del Bono appears as the producer via projection. John Constantine is stage manager for this show that evokes the historic hearings and the characters' lives and Marsh Shugart designed lighting to transport us to another time.

Wendy Tonken, costume designer and associate artistic director of the 13th Street Repertory for over 30 years, designed costumes and lends her artistic eye to this production.

"A drama unfolded in real time before, during and after the hearings. Hollywood specializes in shows. This was Washington doing its version of 'show business,'" Solnik said. "I believe this was truly the beginning, if not the culmination, of American political theater of this kind. The Unamerican looks at three people, how they handled HUAC and made choices that they had to live with, and sometimes be haunted by, for years to come."

Battista, who directed "A Life in the Rye," Solnik's play about J.D. Salinger, at TNC said he's working to tell a story set during a crucial time in American history. ranked "A Life in the Rye" as among the top ten of the year.

"Marilyn, Miller and Kazan were each fascinating in their own way," Battista, the creative director for the 13th St. Repertory, said. "Their relationships with each other and betrayals made their story a natural for the stage. We're trying to tell a story that came from one part of their lives."

Audiences seeing this show may ask who, if anyone, is the Unamerican? The answer may be the hearings themselves truly proved to be "Unamerican," or at least not adhering to principles of Freedom that Miller touted.

Miller took on HUAC when he wrote "The Crucible" as a kind of distant mirror of the hearings and McCarthyism and "After the Fall" chronicles his life with Marilyn. The Unamerican focuses on the story of his appearance before HUAC, while weaving in the story of their relationships.

"Miller's testimony before HUAC is eloquent and emotional," Solnik said. "It's truly an example of a great performance."

Solnik said he was able to find the actual testimony in the House of Representatives' minutes and then sought to tell the story of what preceded it, the testimony itself and what followed. He also wanted to follow Marilyn Monroe, Miller and Kazan and Miller as key characters in the cast of this tale of that time.

"Kazan introduced Marilyn to Miller. The three of them went through HUAC together. Kazan named names, even if he said HUAC already had the information," Solnik said. "Miller saw that as a betrayal. When Miller ended up in front of the committee, Marilyn Monroe tried to save him. They both walked a tightrope, trying to save themselves without surrendering. That brought them closer together. Their relationships played out in the papers and behind the scenes in addition to the politics."

HUAC members suggested they'd go light on or leave Miller alone, if Marilyn let them take a photograph with her in one example of the absurdity of the time. She refused.

"Marilyn Monroe went through all of this too," Solnik said. "They were all put in their own 'Crucible.' Miller ended up facing contempt charges, but he went on to the opening of 'The Crucible' and at least in the eyes of history, I don't think there's any doubt as to who prevailed."

The Unamerican, Feb. 24 to March 13, Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. Tickets $18 and $15 for students and seniors., 212-254-1109.