Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Produced by Arena Stage
Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy
A View from the Bridge is a must see. Great ensemble acting, the best and juiciest I’ve seen at Arena Stage, seamless production values .. it all works together like a well-tuned symphony. Start with the unsettling music composed by Michael Keck that warns like fog horns of a dangerous collision ahead. We don’t see the Brooklyn Bridge-that engineering marvel of an American Dream-but we sense its power. Just as we sense Eddie Carbone’s muscular energy.
Loy Arcenas’ brooding skeletal set is dramatically lit by Nancy Schertler so that scenes shift fluidly between the interior of a dark-hued apartment to the exterior of cinder block buildings and hard-knocks cement streets of this predominantly Sicilian neighborhood: the Red Hook waterfront where Arthur Miller grew up and first heard the haunting story of a longshoreman’s forbidden love for his young, orphaned niece.
Delaney Williams delivers a visceral super-charged, multi-leveled performance. Eddie is the gentle tyrant of his tenement household in the mid-1950s. That oxymoron says it all about unexpected relationships, honor codes, loyalty and betrayal in this shocker of an Arthur Miller play. And this richly-textured production crescendos to one moment of a same-sex male kiss, which is absolutely apt for this beautifully poetic, balanced play.
Eddie Carbone is the inarticulate, self-deluded longshoreman who falls short of his own grandiose dreams to give his niece Catherine (Virginia Kull) the chances he never had. He wants her to finish stenography school, work in a law firm and marry up, yet reluctantly approves her taking a job in a plumbing firm.
Williams captures the nuances of a tough guy, intolerant Archie Bunker, who slumps in his arm chair with a knife to peel an apple, a subtle warning of violence to come. But this macho uncle lets his nearly 20-year-old niece, dressed like a little girl, sit on his lap and light his cigar as an after-dinner ritual.
Virginia Kull as Catherine is as refreshing, and filled-with-radiant innocence as a Madonna from the old world. This fine actress totally convinces us of her character’s change from a bouncy, impulsive, sweet young girl, to a street-smart, assertive, rebellious and liberated woman at the end.
Naomi Jacobson, that versatile award-winning actress last seen as a ditzy blond in Woolly Mammoth’s The Unmentionables, projects a rock-solid, self-sacrificing Beatrice, the loyal wife to the end. Her comic timing is spot-on as she anxiously tells Eddie she wants to wash the walls and wax the floors to welcome her two newly-arrived illegal immigrant cousins from Sicily, Rodolpho (David Agranov) and Marco (Louis Cancelmi). Beatrice’s befuddlement over not knowing that sardines swim in an ocean where heroes once sailed is just one of her funny moments. But Beatrice is also an important lightning rod for Eddie. When her blinders drop, we see more of Eddie’s sexual insecurities.
Standing on the sidelines in a pool of light is neighborhood lawyer Alfieri, who functions as a Greek chorus to compare the disasters to come with those of the ancient myths. Acted with controlled elegance and compassion by Noble Shropshire, Alfieri still displays traces of his Brooklyn accent from the old neighborhood but adds depth and the call for moderation and justice, due to his educated, historical view from the bridge. When Eddie comes for advice, Alfieri stares like a searchlight into Eddie’s eyes, and warns him to back off, let go, or his hubris and “too much love for the niece” will bring down his house.
On the surface, Eddie’s affability is endearingly tender when he offers refuge to his wife’s cousins, the men who arrive to work on the docks bringing stories of their pasts. Blond-headed, less-macho but multi-talented Rodolpho, played with theatrical flair by David Agranov, contrasts with Marco, the physically stronger brother, enacted with stoic calm by Louis Cancelmi. Eddie respects Marco, a family man, defined by his code of honor, with a left-behind, faithful wife and children. Whereas Eddie convinces himself that Rodolpho, the singer, dancer and cook, is a homosexual out to marry Catherine for citizenship. “….if you close the paper fast-you could blow him over…..He ain’t right,” Eddie recites like a haunting refrain.
Daniel Aukin, former artistic director of New York’s Soho Rep, orchestrates his 14 cast members with impressive focus. Not a gesture or prop seems wasted, as shown in these . directorial highpoints: When Katy’s suspicions grow about Eddie’s hidden desires and he grows progressively vicious and mean as a bull, Katy bangs the table like a drum to signal her cry for help in frenzied outbursts. When that final confrontation over the code of honor arrives near the close of the play, Aukin uses aisle entrances organically. We are swept up onto the stage and into a super-charged, choreographed fight scene. The unrelenting energy and focus takes the breath away and wrenches the gut.
It’s been over 50 years since A View from the Bridge was first staged on Broadway. Written about the same time Arthur Miller was called before Congress to betray his friends and “name names,” this brilliant Arena Stage production makes the play as relevant and eternally fresh today as ever.
Hear our podcast with Delaney Williams and Naomi Jacobson here.
Running Time: 2 hours with 1 intermission
When: March 21-May 17. Tues. at 12 p.m. on 4/15 and at 7:30 p.m. on 4/8, 4/22 & 5/13.; Wed. at 12:00 p.m.; on 4/23 & 5/7 and at 7:30 p.m. on 4/9, 4/23, & 5/14; Thurs. at 12:00 p.m., on 5/8 and at 8:00 p.m. on 4/17 & 5/1; Fri. at 8:00 p.m. on 4/11, 4/25 & 5/16; Sat. at 2:00 p.m. on 4/19, 5/3 & 5/17
Where: Arena Stage, Crystal City, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202, below street level near the Crystal City Marriott. (Not the Crystal Gateway Marriott which is a separate hotel located nearby.)
Tickets: range from $47-66, with discounts available for students and groups. A limited number of $10 tickets for patrons 30 and under go on sale beginning on Monday for the following week of performances (Tuesday through Sunday) until all available $10 tickets sell out. Patrons may purchase $10 tickets by phone, online or in person.. Tickets are available for purchase online on www.arenastage.org, at the Arena Stage Sales Office at 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202, or by phone at (202) 488-3300.
Patrons who simultaneously purchase tickets to both Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge will receive 10% off the price of the tickets (offer available by phone and in person, only).