Tooth Decay

Painful memories are evocative of tangy taffy tablets that get caught in one’s teeth. Innocently beginning as carefully measured concoctions of sugar water, butter, flavor, and color, they are like a starry-eyed couple mixing, discovering delight, philosophical difference, similar tastes, and enough commonality to flourish. Next, as the chewy pieces slowly dissolve, both parties are left wanting more and rummage to get as much as they can from each other, until the box comes up empty. Last, the couple sleeps on it one last time before making the fateful decision, the candy is not brushed away, and the sugary sweet grains are left behind on the rear molars to putrefy.

Playwright Arthur Miller, arguably one of America’s finest dramatists, never filled the hollow space left by his wife of five years, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe. Rather, he preferred to lower his jaw and examine it frequently with near dental precision, authoring a number of dramas featuring her flawed character. His final piece, Finishing the Picture, examined her psychological deterioration during the filming of The Misfits and premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theater in 2004, starring an all-star acting ensemble.

The doors of the nationally recognized playhouse open into neighboring Petterino’s, downtown Chicago’s inspired answer to Sardi’s. The red boothed dining room, one part Politician Watering Hole and another part Theatergoer Mainstay, was presided over by Marie Ursini from its time of origin until  2011.

“When I met Arthur Miller, I [was] completely tongue-tied,” recalled Marie Ursini. ”When I looked up from the host stand, he was standing there, and I thought,’ Oh, my God, that’s Arthur Miller.’”

As mentioned, Miller’s final drama employed a multitude of celebrated stage actors. Stacy Keach, Matthew Modine, Scott Glenn, Linda Lavin, and Frances Fisher all took late lunches at the corner eatery throughout the production.

“All of those people were really nice, not difficult or anything. I liked them. They would sit outside [on the patio] and listen to the music,” stated Marie.

A bartender reminisced about tending to the actors one particular afternoon, too, when the bill was paid, but no extra cash lay in the binder. It took him by surprise, since most thespians are familiar with treading on the restaurant boards in addition to their stage environs. Even more surprising was the tip awaiting him the following day by the cast members, accompanied by a theater program signed by all of them.

Miller’s memory piece ran its course at the Goodman, and many patrons witnessed the last dramatic account of the tumultuous life of Marilyn Monroe. Many months afterward, playwright Arthur Miller placed his well-used pen in its inkwell, turned from the mirror, and was finally at peace.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by shawn spence on November 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I have to laugh….i know all about teeth!!!!


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