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A View from the Bridge

by on 30 January 2018

A Painfully Human Story

A View from the Bridge

by Arthur Miller

Teddington Theatre Club, Hampton Hill Theatre until 3rd February

Review by Melissa Syversen

In the neighbourhood of Red Hook, situated in Brooklyn not far from the famous Brooklyn Bridge, we meet the Carbones, your seemingly average Italian-American family. Eddie Carbone works as a longshoreman and lives with his wife Beatrice and her 18-year-old niece Catherine who they took in when Beatrice’s sister died. They are happy, loving and pride themselves on hard work. When Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolph, two illegal immigrants from Italy, come to stay with them tension rises as a romance develops between Catherine and Rodolpho. As one of his most famous plays, Arthur Miller’s drama A View from the Bridge is (quite deservedly in this writer’s opinion) a true modern classic. It is in equal parts a uniquely American story and a traditional Greek tragedy. We follow as a hard-working everyman, carving out his part of the American dream, only to be brought down by his own tragic human flaw and hubristic inability to acknowledge his mortal sin. A man of the surrounding community, personified by the lawyer Alfieri, looks on, unable to stop the events from unfolding before it undoubtedly reaches its tragic end.

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In previous reviews of TTC production I have praised the club for their ambitious choices of material to bring to the stage, and this time is no different. A View from the Bridge is a mammoth of a play. The sheer scope of themes, motifs and emotions ripe for the picking in Miller’s script continue to attract the very biggest names working in theatre since the two-act version we know today premiered in 1956. Never to be daunted by such things, the cast and crew of TTC give it their all, and more importantly, make it their own. And happily, despite my trepidations, it goes well beyond my expectations handling the infamously difficult Brooklyn-Italian and Sicilian dialects needed. Not every pronunciation might be perfect, but they get the rhythm and cadence right, and that together with earnest commitment goes a long way. A great example of commitment: Matt Nicholas is so charming and likeable as the young dreamer Rodolpho that I am more than willing to overlook that he sounded more and more like my Croatian friend Andrija as the play went on. I mean that in a good way.

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In the lead role of Eddie Carbone, Daniel Wain cuts a defined and specific character. He sometimes moves dangerously close to a Joe Pesci-ish pastiche but saves himself by fully grounding Eddie with remarkable pain behind the bravado. He also has a likeable charm which makes Eddie’s descent into more and more obsessive and toxic behaviour particularly wrenching to watch. (And bless him, Daniel also impressively soldiers on like a pro during an unfortunate costume malfunction that happened in one of the main confrontational scenes of the play.)

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As Marco, Paul Furlong, in particular, stands out by giving a beautifully understated performance. Here is a man who is torn, a man who sees what is happening, sees the way his brother is being treated but say nothing in fear of losing the work he desperately needs to support his wife and children starving in Italy. The role of Marco, like Beatrice, (a rock-solid and heartfelt performance by Susan Gerlach) is probably one of the trickier and underappreciated roles in Miller’s canon. They are not the romantic leads of Catherine and Rodolpho nor the tragic figure of Eddie but are equally vital players to the story. They, like our narrator Alfieri (Jim Trimmer) see what is happening, but both are unable to escape the black hole they are slowly being sucked into.

Director Dane Hardie wisely makes the cast and text its focus and that is this production’s strength. Never does he lose sight of the humans at the centre of it all, keeping his direction, set and technical elements simple and straightforward (though I did enjoy the recurring red hook). A View from the Bridge is a shorter play so even with a twenty-minute interval, it clocked in at exactly two hours. The slow burning of the 1st Act is somewhat undercut by a rushed 2nd Act, culminating in a blink and you’ll miss it ending. For all the strength of this show, I wish the 2nd Act was allowed to breathe a bit more. We never really get a moment when Eddie realises the true reasons for his actions and where they are leading him. We never see the moment when he could have made the choice to stop but decides not to. Because of this some of the nuances are lost and the emotional weight the final moments falls a bit flat

I once had a conversation with a friend who was trying to decide whether Marco or Eddie was the bad guys of the story and what the overall moral was. To me, though I did not point it out to my friend at the time, these questions are somewhat beside the point. Eddie was, despite his end, a good man for most of his life. A loving husband who worked hard and helped others in need be it his niece or his wife’s cousins. However, the love he had for his niece grew into something darker, something he might not even fully understand, nor the ramifications it would have, before it was too late. By the time Beatrice finally says it out loud, he is in too deep in the narrative, and in the excuses he has constructed to justify his actions and feelings of jealousy, and suffers the fatal consequences. Good guy or bad guy, it is a painfully human story. One that reminds us that we are all vulnerable creatures capable of fatal flaws.

Melissa Syversen
January 2018

Photography by Sarah Carter

 

 

 

 

 

 

From → Drama, Reviews

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