Saturday, October 31, 2015

A View from the Bridge ***

I wonder how I would have reacted to the current Broadway production of this Arthur Miller classic had I not known that this Young Vic import won three Oliviers — best actor for Mark Strong, best director for Ivo van Hove, and best play revival. Perhaps this foreknowledge raised my expectations too high. I will grant that this production has many strengths, foremost among them a riveting performance by Strong as Eddie Carbone. Of the other carryovers from the London cast, Nicola Walker skillfully underplays the role of Eddie’s wife Beatrice and Michael Gould is strong as Alfieri, the lawyer who serves as narrator and Greek chorus. On the other hand, I did not admire Phoebe Fox as Beatrice’s orphaned niece Catherine, for whom Eddie’s feelings are far more than fatherly. At a critical early point, her accent slipped from Brooklyn to Britain, which, for me at least, undermined much of what followed. Richard Hansell was fine in the smallish role of Louis, Eddie’s coworker. Of the newcomers to the cast, Michael Zegen is superb as Beatrice’s married cousin Marco, an illegal immigrant who made the difficult choice to leave wife and children behind in Sicily to save them from starvation. Russell Tovey is fine as Rodolpho, Marco’s blond younger brother, whose budding relationship with Beatrice leads to trouble. Admittedly it is very hard to imagine Tovey and Zegen as brothers. Thomas Michael Hammond has the tiny role of police officer. Jan Versweyveld’s strikingly simple set suggests a boxing ring, which is reinforced by the fact that several rows of theatergoers are seated on either side of the stage. The production is greatly enhanced by Tom Gibbons’s sophisticated sound design which makes effective use of snippets of sacred music, barely audible droning and a drum that punctuates the action. An D’Huys’s costume for Beatrice strains credibility. I can’t imagine that any overprotected girl in Red Hook in the 1950’s would be allowed to run around in a skirt that skimpy. It does fit with the crudely overdone first scene between Catherine and Eddie, during which she jumps on him and wraps her legs around him and he casually rests his hand on her thigh. No subtlety there. The choice to have the actors perform barefoot seemed an arbitrary touch to show the director’s cleverness. There is one long conversation scene that breaks the mounting tension. The final scene is a real audience grabber. Unfortunately it doesn’t make clear what actually transpired. For parallelism it is matched with an opening shower scene far from Miller territory. During  its best moments, the play is absolutely gripping. However, I felt that there are also flaws that detract from the general excellence. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes, no intermission.

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