Having read the play as a teenager, there was very little stopping me from watching a recent screening of Ivo van Hove’s interpretation of A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, the modern American classic. Why? It deals with themes of family, love, betrayal and human nature; everything that makes us human.
The play follows Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) in 1940s/50s Brooklyn, a dock labourer, who has worked hard as an Italian-American citizen to make a life for his wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) and niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) who has lived with them since her mother died years earlier. When two illegal immigrants are taken in by the family, Eddie is tested as his young niece Catherine falls in love with one of the immigrants. Eddie’s unhealthy relationship with his niece is brought to light as a father figure with an inappropriate lust for his young ward.
Testosterone and tension dominate the play as Eddie and the immigrants confront family values, respect and engage in outbursts of animalistic power struggles. Meanwhile, Beatrice wrestles with her husband’s refusal to acknowledge the problem they’re facing. Mark Strong embodies a man trying to do right, but is flawed in his excessive love for his niece and appears tired of fighting with his demons. Phoebe Fox transitions beautifully from excited child to a scarred woman and Nicola Walker is both direct and submissive as Beatrice, reflecting accurately how women were expected to follow their husband’s orders, as gender determined power.
All performances are exceptional, including the Greek chorus figure Alfieri played by Michael Gould, whose role reinforces the elements of a modern Greek tragedy in the play: Eddie is a flawed man who’s errors cost him dearly. The sparse, enclosed, grey toned staging of the play works perfectly, leaving the audience to focus on the words. The actors pace around the stage liked caged animals, so painfully human and ominous. This reaffirmed my beliefs about the transcendence of the play, how we must settle for half and its message: is difference really a threat? Do we always know better than others? How important is loyalty, and who should we be loyal to? Are we all equal?
All I can say is that I hope the production moves to Broadway, where the play can be brought home and experienced in the city where the story began.
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