Miller also goes astray with the character of Lyman's daughter Bessie (Shannon Burkett), who whines for the first half of the play and scowls for the second, and with another of those black stage-nurses, Nurse Logan (Oni Faida Lampley), whose full of no-nonsense good humor. Miller does, however, manage to leaven his helter-skelter narrative with amusing lines. For example, Lyman's lawyer, Tom Wilson (John C. Vennema), who shows up to comfort Theo and to scratch his head over his client's follies, offers a quotable comment that the best that aging can offer is having "the right regrets." Theo, who goes through the proceedings in upper-class dudgeon, implores--perhaps with less command of grammar than might be expected--"Why does anyone stay together once they realize who they're with?" Would that wisecracks aged in pain were all it took to make an outstanding play.
One of the unexpected disappointments of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan is Patrick Stewart. Admitting in recent interviews that he shortchanged Lyman during the last run of the play at the Public, Stewart still hasn't wrestled his man to the ground. As the Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus darts about with a full head of graying hair, there's something of Lyman's machismo that escapes him--he appears to be striving for the grit. Or does he think Lyman is the one striving? Whatever it is, he lacks a basic conviction--a level of bombast that doesn't come to him naturally. (The irony is that Brian Dennehy, who made such an off-putting bundle of nerves out of Willie Loman in last year's Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, would probably be bang-on in this role...and while you're picturing that, picture what Miller would do with a character named Lyman Loman.)
Fortunately, the women do better. Conroy, who's taken on Deborah Kerr's middle-aged grace, makes Theo understandable and sympathetic, and Selverstone, with her long, dark hair swinging, turns Leah into a believable business woman-wife-mother who learns to her chagrin that she only thought she had it all. The other cast members--Vennema, Burkett, and Lampley--make no more or less of the lifeless dialogue Miller has given them. Director David Esbjornson gets his players on and off stage--and the multiple-fractured Lyman in and out of bed--with dispatch.
There is one stunning visual image in The Ride Down Mt. Morgan--for which John Arnone has designed gliding curtains and tall, stylized windows. In an early-action fever-dream, Lyman quite clearly sees a black man at a piano float laterally through the air and he identifies the man as Earl "Fatha" Hines, playing in that delicate, intricate style of his. In an instant, everything ineffable that Lyman holds in esteem and which he seems in danger of losing is made manifest. It's just too bad that once the fever breaks, it's all a downhill ride from there.