One of my favorite playwrights is the late Arthur Miller and one of my favorite plays of his, is “A View from the Bridge.” In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve seen it at least four times performed in different parts of the world. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to seeing this new, award-winning revival, directed by Ivo Van Hove, the head of one of Holland’s leading theatre companies, on opening night at The Ahamanson Theatre.
I was positive that I was going to love this new interpretation. After all, Van Hove’s production not only received rave reviews in London, winning the Olivier award, but it also received a Tony award for best revival of a play.
Unfortunately, I have to say that this was not the case. It wasn’t the spare staging that bothered me or the extremely stylized performances, but the casting of the lead character, Eddie Carbone, as well as some of the director’s choices.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, the play takes place in the 50’s. Eddie Carbone, a big, burly, intimating longshoreman lives with his wife Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) and their 18-year-old niece Catherine (Catherine Combs) in the Italian working class section of Brooklyn known as Red Hook. Catherine moved in with Eddie and his wife as a young child after her parents died.
Which brings me to problem number one: Eddie is played by Frederick Weller, who is anything but big, burly and intimating. It’s not only his physicality but it’s his line readings. I have never seen a production of this play where the audience was constantly breaking out in laughter. This play is a tragedy, not a sitcom. Van Hove, for some reason had Weller playing it for laughs, or at least that’s how it seemed to me.
Another problem I had is how Van Hove chose to show Eddie’s desire for his niece. I guess the director does not believe in subtleties, because he has Catherine constantly throwing herself at her uncle, jumping up on him, wrapping her long bare legs and arms around every part of his body as Beatrice looks on. Maybe the Dutch aren’t familiar with the term “less is more.”
The moment Beatrice’s two cousins, the good-looking Rodolpho (Dave Register) and Marco (Alex Esola) arrive illegally from Italy and are invited to stay at the Carbone’s house, you can see where this is going. It’s more than obvious that Catherine and Rudolpho are attracted to each other and as the play goes on, Eddie’s jealousy turns into a full blown rage that can only lead to disaster.
Eddie is a complex character and “A View from the Bridge” is a complex play. Many people have felt it is symbolic of the McCarthy era, during which it took place. Despite my problems with the production, if you’ve never seen the play, I would still say it’s worth a trip to The Ahmanson to see one of Arthur Miller’s best works.
8 pm Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 pm; Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 pm, Sundays. The show ends October 16th. The Ahmanson Theatre 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Ticket prices $25-$125.00.