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‘Incident at Vichy’ review: Signature’s heavy-handed drama

Darren Pettie, left, as Leduc, Jonny Orsini as

Darren Pettie, left, as Leduc, Jonny Orsini as Lebeau, and Evan Zes as Gypsy in Signature Theatre's "Incident at Vichy" by Arthur Miller. Credit: Joan Marcus

WHAT “Incident at Vichy”

WHERE Pershing Square Signature Theatre Center, 480 W. 42nd St.

INFO $25; 212-244-7529; signaturetheatre.org

BOTTOM LINE Heavy-handed but rare and thought-provoking Miller

Anyone yearning for a bolt of moral certitude — and who isn’t in these days of shifting allegiances? — an honorable place to start is “Incident at Vichy.” Arthur Miller’s 1964 drama, rarely seen, making it one of the few rarities in our unofficial Miller centennial year, is being given a thoughtful, straightforward, perhaps unavoidably heavyhanded production, directed by Michael Wilson at the Signature Theatre.

Nine very different men and a boy have been rounded up on the streets for interrogation by the Nazi-occupied French-Vichy government in 1942. Although told this is a routine document check, the prisoners soon realize the head officer is from the Race Institute and those freight trains nearby are not bound for labor camps.

For 75 fraught minutes, some of the men try, in vain, to imagine individual reasons how they might be saved. There is no hope for the gypsy or for the silent old Jew (Jonathan Hadary), but maybe the actor can win them over with thespian confidence or perhaps the waiter can get pity by licking an officer’s boot. The central drama belongs to the disillusioned but realistic psychiatrist (the formidable Darren Pettie) and the Austrian Catholic prince (Richard Thomas, who may be the city’s most unsung actor).

How did sensitive Germans turn into Nazis? Is there a limit to what anyone can consider personal responsibility and still be considered a good man? Miller’s answer here may strain credibility, but he certainly asked the right questions.

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