By: Paul Batterson
When he was in Otterbein University's production of SPRING AWAKENING last fall, actor Sam Ray had to shift between nine different characters throughout the show.
Ray faces a much different task when Otterbein presents AFTER THE FALL this March. As Quentin, Ray never leaves the stage.
"The biggest challenge is the amount of time I'm on stage," says Ray, who plays Quentin, a character loosely based on playwright Arthur Miller. "The only time I'm not on stage is for intermission so it's kind of like running a marathon. You have to be constantly mentally prepared for every rehearsal and every run. I don't really get a break."
As the play opens, Quentin debates whether he should marry his latest love Holga (Marina Pires) while still reeling from his divorce from Maggie (Emily Vanni). Maggie later commits suicide.
Although Miller denied it, the work appears to be a thin-veiled self-psychoanalysis of the playwright's marriage and divorce from actress Marilyn Monroe.
Miller wrote some of the most memorable American plays including ALL MY SONS, DEATH OF A SALESMAN and THE CRUCIBLE. AFTER THE FALL was one of Miller's most personal works and one of his least successful. Critics bashed the original play because it mirrored Miller's life too closely and was released too soon, coming just two years after Monroe's suicide in 1962.
The play's action takes place inside Quentin's mind and the plot doesn't follow a straight line of events.
"His mind works in really mysterious ways," Ray says. "Someone pops up on stage and that launches Quentin into a completely different memory."
Neither Ray nor Vanni had ever heard of the play until auditions for it were announced.
"I've obviously heard of Arthur Miller but I never heard of this play," says Ray, who was in THE CRUCIBLE when he attended Cincinnati Anderson High School. "It's more one of his literary pieces. It has a lot of different levels to it. It says a lot about humanity and how one relationship can really affect the rest of your life."
"This is very different from anything I've ever been in," Vanni says. "It's a very heavy show but there are some light moments. I had read a lot of Arthur Miller's works and I knew he and Marilyn had been married. Once I found out this was the show we were doing, I read up more on their relationship."
Vanni, a sophomore from Fairfax, Va., went back through Monroe's movies to get Maggie's character down.
"I've always been a huge Marilyn Monroe fan ever since I was little, so it's an honor to portray a character that is based on her," Vanni says. "I'm trying to respect who she was as an artist but I'm also trying to create my own character.
"The only thing we've seen of Marilyn is the (public) image she put out. We never really saw who she was behind closed doors. This play kind of shows what she was really like when no one else was around."
The play also features Anthony Cason Jr. (Mickey), Sean Murphy (Lou), Afton Welch (Louise), Sydney Smith (Carrie), Nina Anderton (Felice), Kyle Hansen (Father), Sam Parker (Dan), Tori Hidalgo (Elise) and Mary Kate O'Neill (Mother).
"It's a show that is full of passion and love and struggling to understand one's self," Vanni says. "It's a real-life journey about being overwhelmed and consumed by obsession, money and perfection and love. It's a roller coaster ride."