It’s almost ten years since the Playhouse’s last dalliance with Arthur Miller – a not entirely successful production of All My Sons that dripped with leaden symbolism. In that play it’s the dishonesty of a family man who knows he is responsible for the deaths of American pilots, having shipped faulty parts for the construction of airplanes.
In A View From The Bridge it’s docker Eddie Carbone refusing to acknowledge the feelings he has towards different members of his household. But when two distant relatives arrive at his tiny house, in rough-and-ready Red Hook to make a life from themselves away from the grinding poverty of rural Sicily, matters come to a head.
Miller once said “evasion is the most developed technique most men have” – that we prefer to dodge confrontation and avoid situations and emotions we recognise as damaging and frightening, lest we bring everything crashing down around our ears. Here lawyer Alfieri (Bruce Alexander), a friend of the family, is pitched somewhere between angel and Greek chorus and can see from the start where Eddie’s situation is leading. The problem is, so can we.
As with All My Sons, it’s not a case of working out what’s happening but when it’s going to happen and quite how hideous the fall-out will be. Whether A View From The Bridge has enough to keep you engaged as it heads to its inevitable conclusion may depend on the individual viewer and how familiar these tragic tropes feel in the light of soap-opera overexposure.
The production itself is very hard to fault, however. Lloyd Hutchinson’s Eddie is the sort of character that is instantly recognisable from years of New Yorkian Italiano pastiche: loves his family, works hard, earns his respect and says his prayers. But watching Eddie wrestle with his feelings is like watching a neanderthal try to repair a watch: the contrast with the joyful Rodolpho, who inevitably wins the heart of Eddie’s niece, is painful.
Swallowing his words in case they emerge in a torrent of reproachment, jealousy and suppressed feelings, Eddie can only mumble about the respect he isn’t shown by the oblivious Rodolpho – a blithe Andy Apollo – who is all fancy shoes, uncaged birds and orange blossom on the wind. “He ain’t right,” is all Eddie can offer, hopelessly: impotently, probably.
The bone of contention is the pert Catherine: Eddie’s intact, ingenue niece wonderfully played by Shannon Tarbet. Rodolpho may love her – or simply the prospect of a green card she offers. Eddie may simply love her – or…
A View From The Bridge isn’t so much a case of a love that dare not speak its name, but a love that is incapable of it. Eddie struggles with it, emanating a horrible repressed violence, as the rest of the cast continue their inevitable decaying orbit around him. And we know – as he knows, perhaps the only thing he really knows – that no good can come of it.
A View From The Bridge
Until 19 April 2014