Preview: Resurrection Blues, Old Vic, London

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The Independent Culture

Throughout his life, Arthur Miller had an unerring eye for the failings and foibles of modern America. Resurrection Blues, his penultimate play, was first performed in 2002, but Miller was tweaking rewrites until his death in February last year. The final result combines his customary bleak outlook with uncharacteristic comedy, albeit of the satirical and black variety.

The play, which has its British premiere tomorrow, is set in a South American banana republic, where revolution is bubbling under. When the authorities capture the messianic rebel leader and sentence him to death by crucifixion, a New York film crew is on hand to broadcast the spectacle to the world.

The director Robert Altman has gathered a stellar cast for his London theatre debut, including Neve Campbell, Maximilian Schell and Jane Adams. Adams, who played Niles's plastic-surgeon girlfriend, Mel, in Frasier, takes the central role of Emily, a budding film director. "I think that Emily could maybe go on and become an Altman herself. But she makes the wrong choices. She has to shoot athlete's foot commercials to get by. She's a bit trapped by her luxury items," says Adams. She is no stranger to Miller's demands, having played Mary Warren in The Crucible on Broadway.

Miller's lampooning of bloody politics and the ruthlessness of the media confirms his knack of tuning into the most contemporary of his country's problems.

"Miller was seeing the world so sharply. Hearing these words again and again each day is almost like putting his glasses on," says Adams, who is also relishing Miller's rarely seen humour.

"Bob Altman is brilliantly letting the real behaviour of these people emerge. He's not hitting you over the head with some sort of comic idea of Miller," she says. "Like any really brilliant satire, it's not a satire to me, it's just the way we live. You just don't want to face that, so you gotta laugh."

Previews from tomorrow; to 22 April (0870 060 6628)

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