Chronicling a Love Affair with Canadian Theatre

a view from the bridge

A View From The Bridge at Long Wharf Theatre

The now homeless and itinerant Long Wharf Theatre is making ingenious use of an ad hoc space on the second floor of the sleek Canal Dock Boathouse on the shore of New Haven harbor to mount a smashing revival of Arthur Miller’s 1955 A View From The Bridge.

A View From The Bridge is a Greek (or perhaps I should say Sicilian) tragedy that continued Miller’s response to the depredations of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that began with The Crucible (1953). The target of A View From The Bridge is not so much HUAC but film director Elia Kazan, the infamous namer of names, whose On The Waterfront was seen by many as his attempt to excuse his testimony to HUAC.

Miller sent a copy of his script to Kazan who thought this was Miller’s attempt at a rapprochement. Miller disabused him of this notion by clarifying “I only sent you the script to let you know what I think of stool-pigeons.”

Fortunately for the contemporary theatergoer A View From The Bridge is not just a salvo in a cat fight between two cultural giants. Miller is too good a playwright for that. While knowing something of the backstory adds to an appreciation of the work, complete ignorance of the political and social history of the 1950s is no bar to experiencing a powerful evening in the theatre.

As with many of Miller’s work from his mature period, A View From The Bridge deals with themes of guilt and betrayal, stories in which insignificant men are brought face to face with personal failures that expose them to cosmic retribution.

In the case of A View From The Bridge that insignificant schlub is Eddie Carbone (a towering Dominic Fumusa), a seemingly salt of the earth second generation Italian longshoreman in Brooklyn’s distinctly downmarket Red Hook district. Eddie lives a respectable working class life with his devoted and long-suffering wife Beatrice (a touching Annie Parisse) and her orphaned niece Catherine (the pert Paten Hughes).

But all is not well in the Carbone household. It soon becomes apparent that Eddie harbors feelings toward the 17-year-old Catherine that shade over from the avuncular to the incestuous. Moreover his wife, with whom he has not canoodled in some three months, has picked up the signals. Miller conjures this milieu masterfully and the cast, under the direction of James Dean Palmer, keeps the tension simmering.

When two of Beatrice’s cousins, illegal immigrants off a cargo ship, join the household, the family dynamic becomes considerably more volatile. The dour and serious Marco (Antonio Magro) is the devoted father of three children back in Sicily, one of whom appears to be suffering from tuberculosis. Marco wants simply to work hard to send money home to his struggling family. His younger brother Rodolfo (Mark Junek), handsome and atypically blond, is single, vivacious, and enthralled with all New York has to offer.

When a natural attraction develops between Catherine and Rodolfo, A View From The Bridge take a darker turn.

Miller presents A View From The Bridge as something of a memory piece from the recent past, narrated by Alfieri (a miscast Patricia Black), an old neighborhood lawyer steeped in the ancient folkways of his Sicilian ancestors, from whom we derive the English word “vendetta,” and the wisdom of American law. Both are absolute in their own way, but as Alfieri notes in America we are willing to settle for half.

Alfieri, who sees the tragic end early on and lets us know that there will be no happy ending, can be seen as the bridge between two cultures, providing a certain resonance with the title. It’s also worth noting that the Canal Dock Boathouse is in the shadow of the Pearl Harbor Bridge that whisks commuters past the gritty streets of New Haven to the posh suburbs of the Connecticut shoreline.

Thanks largely (I’m guessing) to the largesse of the producing team of Douglas Denoff and Myah Shein, whom I suspect are looking to a future production in New York, A View From The Bridge is receiving a more than respectable production.

A small theatre has been created in a multi-purpose area that can host a variety of events. The sets by You-Shin Chen make clever use of the space. A wall of floor to ceiling glass windows looks out to the borrowed scenery of New Haven’s industrial harbor. The balcony outside has been dressed to represent the streets and docks of Red Hook.

Inside, the Carbone’s modest flat spreads across floors composed of what look like salvaged wood from old ships. It all works remarkably well, although scenes played outside, with the actor’s voices mic’ed, are often muffled.

Rita Ando has contributed appropriate period costumes, but Jane Shaw’s lighting plot has occasional difficulty keeping up with the blocking.

The real story of this production of A View From The Bridge is the acting, which is never less than professional and more often than not exceptional.

Dominic Famusa gives a volcanic performance as Eddie and, without being in any way imitative, he conjures not unwelcome memories of Brando at the height of his youthful powers. As the women in his life, Parisse and Hughes are equally touching.

One of the hallmarks of Miller’s writing is his ability to create subsidiary characters, with relatively few lines, that allow good actors to create indelible characterizations. Marco is one of those characters and Antonio Magro makes the most of the opportunity afforded him.

Kudos, too, to director Palmer for tying it all together. It will be interesting to see if this A View From The Bridge makes it to the Big Apple as so many Long Wharf productions have in the past.

A View From The Bridge continues at The Canal Dock Boathouse through March 10, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Long Wharf Theatre website.

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