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‘Clock’ of ages! Arthur Miller’s Depression-era show returns for the recession

The Brooklyn Paper
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One of Arthur Miller’s lesser-known plays is finally getting its due.

Beginning on March 3, Brave New World Repertory Theatre presents a full-scale production of “The American Clock” at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope. And the Great Depression-era epic couldn’t be more timely.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to do this play during what we hope will be the end of the Great Recession, because I don’t think it ever really had its moment in Arthur Miller’s lifetime,” said Artistic Director Claire Beckman. “He hoped this would be a warning to people, that the clock is ticking on the American dream, and the play needs to be heard.”

The play is based on Studs Terkel’s oral history of the period, “Hard Times,” but is also heavily mirrored after Miller’s own childhood. Like Miller’s family, the fictional Baums moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn after losing their fortune. There’s Rose and Moe Baum, based off of Miller’s own parents and portrayed by Beckman and Stuart Zagnit; and Joe Salgo as the young Lee Baum — Miller himself.

“It’s a real window into his experiences and the hardships that shaped him as a writer,” said director Cynthia Babak. “He’s documenting what he sees as right and wrong.”

In addition to the Baum family, the play’s 53 characters — here portrayed by a large ensemble of nearly 20 — include train-riding hobos and high-riding Wall Street brokers brought low as the play retells the story of the economic crisis, with period songs including “On The Sunny Side of the Street.”

“Those old vaudeville songs add the levity that is needed,” said Beckman. “You’re not just siting there watching a lot of really dark and tragic narrative about the Depression, which nobody could stand for two hours.”

“The American Clock” at the Brooklyn Lyceum [227 Fourth Ave. near President Street in Park Slope, (718) 857-4816], March 3-13, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 pm and Sundays at 7 pm. Tickets $18. For info, visit www.bravenewworldrep.org.

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