Writer: Arthur Miller, reimagined by Annie Ryan
Director: Annie Ryan
Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster
Adapting a famous movie for the stage is often a tricky process, as it inevitably draws comparisons with the original. Arthur Miller’s The Misfits (1961), directed by John Huston and starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Montgomery Clift, the former two in their final roles, comprises one of the most star-studded movie-making teams of all time, heightening anticipation for this first-ever stage adaptation. This piece succeeds where others may have failed because it is very much not just a stage version of the movie.
Roslyn (Aobhínn McGinnity), first played by Monroe, is stronger, more worldly, and more sardonic than the original, and, crucially, she is a brunette, instantly drawing a distinction with Monroe. Gable played the role of Gay with charm and gruff strength; here, Aidan Kelly has a fiercer edge and swaggers about the stage like a professional wrestler. Emmet Byrne plays Perce, the perfect role for Clift after a car crash left him dependent on alcohol and drugs, and is the stand out performer here, playing the youngest of the three male characters, and emanating loss, confusion, and loneliness in every line.
The play is set in Reno, Nevada, where the recently-divorced Roslyn meets Guido (at turns dangerous and comic, played by Patrick Ryan), Gay, and Perce, all of whom fall in love with her innocence and hope in people. By contrast, the world has left them and their way of life behind, and their sense of uselessness is finally expressed in the closing scene, as they kill six wild horses for a pitiful amount of money. This scene is the main set piece of the movie, and necessarily impossible to recreate on stage, but the combination of loud music and flashing spotlights communicates the brutality and intensity. Indeed, the creation of the play’s atmosphere is one of its strongest features; the heat, isolation, and closeness of the desert setting is consistently apparent.
The play suffers from the same problems Miller’s original novella and screenplay did; it is an awkward narrative that constantly changes tone, and is eventually unclear in what it wanted to say. This production, though, one of the most anticipated of the Dublin Theatre Festival, does not disappoint.
Runs until 7 October 2018 | Image: Ros Kavanagh