A View From the Bridge
Riverside Theatre — through Feb. 12
Every once in a great while I see a piece of theatre that reminds me why I wanted to be in theatre to begin with. The opening night performance of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge at Riverside Theatre was just such a show — electric, inspiring, and devastating. This production gives meaning to the term dramatic tension and illustrates what live theatre is capable of, even if all only have are a great script, committed actors and a stage from which to tell your story.
Barebones, in the best way, this show is stripped of the bells and whistles of your traditional immersive play. Before the show started, I might have thought they were taking an almost Brechtian approach to this modern script; the lights and wings of the stage are naked for the audience to see and entrances and exits are done in full view. This is where the similarities with Bertolt Brecht’s presentational approach to theatre end, however, as nothing about the performances remind you that these are actors. Instead you feel almost immediately as if you know them and are fully invested in their lives.
Set in Brooklyn, the story centers around Eddie Carbone (Patrick Du Laney), a longshoreman who loves his wife Beatrice (Kristy Hartsgrove Mooers) dearly and has raised her orphaned niece, Catherine (Katy Slaven), as his own. At the opening of the play, the family is awaiting the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, Marco (Kehry Lane) and Rodolpho (Aaron Weiner), who are illegally emigrating from Italy, despite the high risk of discovery from immigration authorities. There is a lot more to the story, but I’m leaving it at that. Arthur Miller tells it much better than I can here, and the cast delivers the nuances so skillfully that I think it would dampen the experience to give anything else away. And, I cannot stress this enough: You should experience this play for yourselves.
In his director’s notes, Sean Christopher Lewis describes the atmosphere he was going for as “ghostly, Greek and purgatorial” — and his team has certainly achieved that aim. The music is melancholic and hopeful, even as the direct address from Carbone’s lawer, Alfieri (Tim Budd), warns us that this is a story that cannot now, nor could it ever, have a happy ending. The pantomimed prop work, such as a lack of real food and drink on the table, somehow underscores this, as do the gorgeous costumes by April Bonasera, which never change, though weeks pass in the story. These people really are haunting us, doomed to play out this tragic tale over and over. The record resets but the song is the same.
And they feel very real. Their troubles are neither simple nor trite. The conflict is so palpable, and their desires and struggles so relatable, that it hurts. No one is a villain, not even when you want them to be. You want Eddie to be a jerk or a predator, but his self-deception is so desperate you feel for the guy. You want Beatrice to be a stereotypical cold housewife or jealous stepmother, but when given the opportunity to be a doormat or a shrew, she doesn’t take it. She is good to her husband and her niece because she loves them. The love on display feels real. The rage on display feels real. The careful way they try to communicate without actually saying what they mean is painfully true to life. Which is why the end leaves you feeling so raw.
The entire ensemble gels beautifully. The production is well conceived and elegantly executed. This is truly great theatre and the cast and crew should be commended. In the hands of lesser artists this work could have been a simple tragedy populated by flat archetypes. In the hands of the team at Riverside, it made me think, question and discuss my own actions, insecurities and prejudices. I don’t think there’s any higher praise I can give a work of art. Do not miss this show.
A View From the Bridge is a modern classic by the playwright behind Death of a Salesman. The show runs through Feb. 12, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12-30, and are on sale now.