The American Clock & The Archbishop’s Ceiling
Two Playsby Arthur Miller
These two plays, first produced in the United States in the 1970s, have recently been revived here and abroad to great critical and popular acclaim.
The Archbishop’s Ceiling is set in an unnamed Eastern European country, in the former palace of the archbishop. The four main characters–all writers, one an American–play out a complex artistic, political, and sexual drama with a constant eye to the ceiling, which may or may not be bugged. But it hardly matters whether the bug is there or not. As a permanent possibility, it infects every detail of their lives, from the most trivial offhand remark to the most urgent decisions about love and work.
In The American Clock, Arthur Miller distills his lifetime of engagement with the American theater and the American ethos to paint a sweeping canvas of “one of the vaster social calamities in history–the Great Depression of the thirties.” In a vivid sequence of interlocking tableaux, he evokes the texture of life in America’s cities and on its farms, on Wall Street and on the bread line, indelibly capturing both the bafflement and despair of people deprived overnight of their livelihood and dreams, as well as their resilience and stubborn optimism. “There can be no doubt about it . . . Arthur Miller is back in touch with his best subject, the failure of the American Dream, and back on top of his talent,” said The New York Times of The American Clock, and Clive Barnes praised it for “the same kind of writing that made Death of a Salesman a masterpiece.”