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After the Fall

Presented by Roundabout Theatre Company, casting by Jim Carnahan, C.S.A. and Mele Nagler, at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42 St., NYC, July 29-Sept. 12.

Arthur Miller's 1964 drama "After the Fall" is a difficult epic, but as a major work by a giant American writer, it deserves to be seen, and Roundabout Theatre Company deserves the gratitude of serious playgoers for mounting this earnest, sometimes piercing revival.

Playgoers, though, may question the casting of Peter Krause, an appealing television actor, in the arduous central role of Quentin, a lawyer relentlessly questioning how he's led his life; his relationships with family, friends, and lovers; and his own capacity for evil. Fresh-faced, youthful Krause projects the air of a graduate law student whose anxieties seem no more crucial than an upcoming exam on torts. It's hard to believe him as a foundering liberal lawyer, obsessed with self-doubt and agonizing over his betrayal of friends and two failed marriages. It leaves the production without a central force to galvanize audience empathy.

Nevertheless, under Michael Mayer's direction, there are scenes and performances that ignite theatrical fire. As Quentin waits in an airport for the arrival of a woman he hopes will give him new direction, he ponders his past. Act I is a virtual catalogue of Miller's major concerns: the Great Depression that tears apart his parents, the Holocaust, the McCarthy-era Communist witch hunts, and marital angst and guilt.

Act II focuses on Quentin's pain-wracked marriage to an idolized pop star. She's called Maggie, but of course it's hard to ignore that she's a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Miller's second wife. As Maggie, Carla Gugino gives a searing performance, progressing from innocent but crafty sexpot to tormented sex goddess intent on self-destruction.

The big cast also boasts fine work by Jessica Hecht, Mark Nelson, Jonathan Walker, Vivienne Benesch, Candy Buckley, and Dan Ziskie. Richard Hoover's airport terminal set and Donald Holder's lighting cleverly define shifting playing areas; Michael Krass' good-looking costumes help identify ever-changing time periods.

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