Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg are a Jewish married couple living in New York in the last days of November 1938. Phillip is obsessed with his job at a Wall Street bank, where he works on foreclosing. Phillip and Sylvia rarely spend quality time together until Sylvia suddenly becomes partially paralyzed from the waist down after reading about the events of Kristallnacht in the newspaper. Is her sudden illness due to her identification with the Jews currently being persecuted by in Hitler's Nazi-run Germany? Or can it be attributed to the withdrawal of physical affection by her husband, Phillip, and his ambivalent attitude to his Jewish identity? Dr. Harry Hyman is called in to help and concludes that Sylvia's paralysis is psychosomatic. Although he is not a psychiatrist, he begins to treat her according to his diagnosis. Throughout the play, Dr. Hyman learns more about the problems that Sylvia is having in her personal life, particularly in her marriage. She and Phillip have not been intimate for over twenty years and there is a wedge between them. Sylvia and Dr. Hyman engage in an intimate friendship as he tries to get to the bottom of her fears. After a confrontation with his boss, Phillip suffers a serious heart attack. While he is dying, he and Sylvia finally confront each other about their feelings. Upon Phillip’s death, Sylvia is cured of her paralysis.
Broken Glass guide sections