“Just remember, kid, you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away.”
~ Eddie Carbone
In light of the ongoing debate about immigration, Arthur Miller’s 1955 drama, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE has become timely again. Aldan’s Colonial Playhouse has chosen this American classic to launch their 2014-2015 Season. Directed by Maurizio Giammarco, it runs at the troupe’s Magnolia Avenue theatre weekends from September 12th to the 27th.
Set amongst the dockworkers in Brooklyn’s Red Hook district, …BRIDGE was inspired by a story Miller heard about a longshoreman while he was working the docks. The play’s protagonist, Eddie Carbone, is initially perceived as an everyman, an ordinary Joe struggling to attain the American Dream. He lives in a community with very strict codes; these neighbors still honor the Old World traditions, but are also trying to blend into American culture. Local lawyer Alfieri (Ben Kendall) narrates the tale and tells about the age-old customs and rules that are ingrained into the people in Eddie’s world.
Eddie (Charles Hoffman) works hard on the docks, and he and his wife Beatrice (Susan Triggiani) have raised their niece Catherine (Amy Culver), who is now an attractive young woman of 18. Into this mix come two of Beatrice’s cousins who have snuck into America from Italy. Marco (Bob Toczek) is the older of the two, a responsible man who only wants the best for his family and has come to America in order to work—post-war Italy has nothing but poverty to offer a man. His younger brother, Rodolpho (Brandon Young), seems only to want to have fun. Soon an attraction develops between Rodolpho and Catherine; Eddie starts pointing out all of the young man’s flaws to Catherine and Beatrice—even hinting at Rodolpho being homosexual. It soon becomes apparent to Beatrice—and the audience—that Eddie has repressed sexual feelings for his niece. Before long, Eddie does the unthinkable and tragedy ensues.
Colonial’s production makes full use of their smallish stage, with a unique set design from director Maurizio Giammarco and Ron Hill. It generally serves the production well, but I felt some more creative furniture placement would alleviate a couple of traffic jams and moments when actors upstage themselves to speak to another character. Giammarco paces the production fairly well; but I have to wonder why they did not play a crucial moment between Eddie and Rodolpho as it was actually written. There were a few cases of opening night jitters that I’m sure will iron out and tighten up the pace as the run progresses. James Meinel and Alex Plasmeier provide some solid lighting and sound designs to the proceedings. The performances are generally well done, including a large supporting ensemble of neighbors. Just don’t forget to project please—several of the more intimate or introspective moments got lost due to low volume.
Events in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE can also be seen as mirroring Miller’s experiences during the McCarthy Era when everyone was obsessed with finding the “Commie in the woodpile”. Miller remained steadfast in his silence, but his close friend Elia Kazan gave the House Un-American Activities Committee what they wanted, which broke their friendship. Some say the two were “battling it out” via Kazan’s film On The Waterfront and …BRIDGE. Clearly, maintaining your honor and your good name was crucial to Miller—it’s a theme he explores in THE CRUCIBLE as well. Sadly, many have squandered their reputations for fame, or greed, or other reasons. Though he died in 2005, Arthur Miller’s plays continue to be relevant and thought provoking; they remain worthy of production throughout the globe. And A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a great reminder that most of us descend from immigrants who came here seeking a better life. That inscription on the Statue of Liberty really stands for something.
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
by Arthur Miller
Directed by Maurizio Giammarco
Sept. 12—27, 2014
522 Magnolia Avenue @ Ridley Avenue