NEW YORK—Director Ivo van Hove’s excellent staging and brilliant performances from the entire cast bring home the full power of Arthur Miller’s 1955 drama, “A View From the Bridge.”
The current Broadway production, first seen at the Young Vic in London, is a story of a misguided love, ignorance in the face of change, and complacency that leads to tragedy.
The story takes place in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, described by Alfieri (Michael Gould), a local lawyer, as “the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world.”
It’s the home of longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong), his wife, Beatrice (Nicola Walker), and their 17-year-old niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox). Catherine has been raised by the couple since the death of her mom, Beatrice’s sister, long ago.
Catherine and Eddie have always had a special bond. She sits in the bathroom while he shaves in the morning and leaps into his arms when he comes home at night. Eddie is terribly protective of Catherine whenever she shows the slightest interest in a boy or the outside world in general.
This relationship has become a bit uncomfortable now that Catherine is a young woman. Neither he nor Catherine acknowledges this problem, but Beatrice is acutely aware of it.
Things become more strained when the family takes in two illegal immigrants—a common practice in the area. The new arrivals are Beatrice’s cousins from Sicily, Marco (Michael Zegen) and his younger brother, Rodolpho (Russell Tovey).
The two have been smuggled in thanks to a series of payoffs involving people on both sides of the Atlantic.
While Eddie warms to Marco, the more somber of the brothers with a wife and family back home, it’s a different story with Rodolpho, a free spirit. Rodolpho has an infectious sense of humor, sings, and has no intention of returning to Sicily—at least until he earns enough to buy a motorcycle.
Rodolpho becomes attracted to Catherine, and the two go out on dates, becoming quite close. This situation makes Eddie uncomfortable, as he feels his own relationship with Catherine is being threatened.
As such, Eddie quickly convinces himself, and tries to convince others, that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine to become a U.S. citizen. Eddie never acknowledges or is even aware of the real issue.
This is a play filled with ironies. Eddie continually stresses the importance of loyalty, family, and respect, but in the end threatens to turn his back on all these in an effort to keep Catherine in his home.
Through it all there is a deep and utter denial about what is really going on and not only from Eddie. As Beatrice notes, “We’re all to blame.” Catherine continues to act the same way she always has around Eddie (such as sitting in his lap) because she sees nothing wrong with it.
Beatrice, who in today’s world would be classified as an enabler, does nothing to try to change things until too late. Both women’s loyalty to Eddie takes priority over facing the truth.
Eddie cannot face the reality of change. Change can sometimes be tough to deal with in a community that prizes family, tradition, and a code of honor above all else.
Yet people ignore change at their own peril. Because Eddie resists allowing Catherine to date, she falls in love with Rodolpho, partly because he’s the first man she’s known who doesn’t treat her as a little girl. This results in Eddie’s halfhearted attempts to allow Catherine to see other men in an attempt to end this relationship—a case of too little, too late.
Quite powerful is the ominous feeling hanging over the entire production, one often magnified by Tom Gibbons’s exquisite sound design, which almost becomes its own character in the story. The feeling is best described by Alfieri, who in relating the story in flashback, remembers how he could almost see what was about to happen, but like Beatrice found himself helpless to stop it.
Each of the show’s characters, all of whom can best be described as earthy, come across as completely real. You don’t doubt their continual struggle to keep food on the table via a cyclical and backbreaking job, as in Eddie’s case; having to worry about a sick child, as with Marco; or the feeling of being treated as a perennial outsider, as it applies to Alfieri, with the community associating lawyers with bad news.
Even characters who never appear onstage carry weight. Vinny, someone from the area who went to the authorities about illegal immigrants in his home, was breaking an unwritten rule the neighborhood lives by.
An important element is the way the production has been envisioned by van Hove. All the action takes place in a relatively closed off space. It calls to mind a large boxing ring where the different characters interact with one another before moving apart and then coming together, albeit in different and ever-changing combinations.
With Strong and Walker the standouts in an entire cast of them, and not a false note anywhere, this production of “A View From the Bridge” is a masterpiece of theater. As the person next to me said when it was over, “Wow!”
Also in the cast are Richard Hansell and Thomas Michael Hammond.
‘A View From the Bridge’
149 W. 45th St.
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or Telecharge.com
Running Time: 1 hours, 55 minutes (no intermission)
Closes: Feb. 21
Judd Hollander is a member of the Drama Desk and a reviewer for StageBuzz.com