By: Paulanne Simmons
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge was first staged as a one-act verse drama with A Memory of Two Mondays at the Coronet Theater on Broadway. Subsequently, Miller turned the play into the two-act most theatergoers know today. Perhaps because the play was originally conceived in a much more condensed form, it sometimes seems overwritten and overlong. Not so with Ivo Van Hove’s latest production now at the Lyceum Theater.
To say this production is intense is like noting the sky is blue or birds fly. Jan Versweyveld’s set, an empty square space, seems much like a boxing ring (there’s even an audience on two sides) where the characters will battle for supremacy. "Fauré’s Requiem" gives the drama suggestions of sacredness, and the undertone of a musical pulse functions as the heartbeat of the play, reflecting its various moods. Add Versweyveld’s dramatic lighting, and this View from the Bridge, is often exhilarating.
But, in the end, what keeps the audience on the age of their seats is the extraordinary acting of the entire cast headed by Mark Strong as Eddie Carbone, the Brooklyn longshoreman who lusts after his niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox), while his wife, Beatrice (Nicola Walker), watches tragedy unfold, unable to change its course.
Michael Zegen and Russel Tovey are Marco and Rodolpho, Bea’s easy-going but passionate relatives, illegal immigrants known as "submarines" who have come to stay at the Carbone home. Inevitably (Miller wrote this as a Greek tragedy after all) Rodolpho and Catherine fall in love, which sends Eddie into a fury he cannot control. And because all Greek tragedies have a chorus, Miller has supplied this work with one in the character of the lawyer, Alfieri (Michael Gould), the muse who opens and closes the play.
If there’s one problem with the acting, it’s the inconsistency in the accents and Strong’s habit of making Eddie occasionally sound more Jewish than Italian. But unless you’re really familiar with the various Brooklyn accents, this may not matter.
No one could ever accuse Van Hove of subtlety. And he certainly wastes no time in revealing the erotic nature of Eddie’s relationship with Catherine. In fact, from the very beginning it seems they can’t keep their hands off each other. One might feel like screaming at Bea "Are you blind?" if it weren’t so painfully obvious she isn’t.
At times, however, one wishes Van Hove had the confidence, or perhaps humility to leave the play in the hands of its author and his actors. Miller’s desire to make this a tragedy of the common man is not exactly a hidden truth the director needs to bring to our attention with constant foreshadowing.
However, even though we know how this is all going to end, we are still moved by the raw emotion the actors bring up from the depth of their soul. This revival is not perfect, but it is theater as it most certainly should be – exciting, innovative and visceral.