A View From The Bridge:
ARTVOICE Review-- A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Subversive’s innovative interpretation of Arthur Miller
Over the years, Arthur Miller’s 1956 play, A View from the Bridge, has inched
its way higher and higher in the rankings of his great work. His earlier plays
like Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, and The Crucible are better known. A
View from the Bridge was not a success in its original outing. Nonetheless,
every few years a revival will attract renewed attention to this model of
The current Subversive Theatre production certainly serves this function. The
script reveals itself to have marvelously complex roles for a fine ensemble of Buffalo
A View from the Bridge tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman
living in the Red Hook section of New York City
near the Brooklyn Bridge
with his wife, Beatrice, and their young adult niece, Catherine. As the play
begins, it becomes clear that Eddie feels very protective toward Catherine. He
doesn’t like her innocent friendliness to the men in the neighborhood or the
womanly walk she’s developed. He objects to the idea of her taking a job
outside the home.
At first we are inclined to attribute Eddie’s attitude to traditional Italian
values, but when cousins arrive from Sicily
to hide out in the Carbone home while they illegally look for work, it becomes
obvious that his feelings toward his niece are more than avuncular. Obvious to
everyone but Eddie, that is.
Under the direction of Kurt Schneiderman, the Subversive Theatre production
boasts an impressive cast headed by Thomas LaChiusa as Eddie, Lisa Vitrano as
Beatrice, and Andrea Gollhardt as Catherine. Each gives a multilayered
performance. Actually, the strength of the production is a reshuffling of the
balance between the characters. Historically a tour de force for Eddie, here
the women leap from the page fully dimensioned with complicated loyalties and
motivations. The result is thrilling.
Eddie’s incestuous desire for Catherine boils into irrational jealousy when she
and Rodolpho, the younger of the two cousins, embark on a romance. Unable to
admit that he harbors inappropriate feelings for his own niece, Eddie deflects,
insisting that he objects to the young Italian who can sing, sew, and cook,
because there is something unnatural about the boy.
As Rodolpho, James Heffron highlights the opacity of the role with a skillfully
modulated performance. Indeed, LaChiusa and Heffron emphasize the fascinatingly
uncomfortable similarities between their characters. Both seem to make
decisions based coldly and entirely on self-interest; Rodolpho freely admits
that his main goal is to become an American. Both seem to view Catherine in
paternalistic terms; at one point, Rodolpho lovingly but condescendingly refers
to the young woman as his “little girl.”
Heffron overcomes an unfortunate dye job to deliver a Rodolpho who is
splendidly and unsettlingly ambiguous in his motivations. He is certainly
sincere; but about what? At one moment he takes a punch in the face from Eddie.
The thoughtful contemplation that crosses the actor’s face in this moment is a
lesson in Method acting. For all his joking and singing, this Rodolpho holds as
many secrets as Eddie.
The central issue of the play emerges when Eddie crosses an unforgivable line.
Without giving the entire plot away to the uninitiated, let me just say that
Eddie’s deed inspires Marco to observe that in Sicily
he would be dead already. The dilemma is between the ethics of loyalty and the
ethics of legality.
Jeffrey Coyle, best known for over-the-top comic roles, gives an entirely
controlled and understated performance as Marco. Marco is a large and powerful
man; Coyle imbues him with enigmatic intensity. At the end of the first act,
when he challenges Eddie to lift a chair in a feat of physical prowess, he
gives the moment overtones of both warning and foreshadowing. Coyle embraces
the central ethical conflict of the play with great believability and emotion.
Fascinatingly, in this production, a script that always offers a bravura turn
to the actor who plays Eddie instead reveals the complexity and power of
Beatrice. Vitrano’s performance is stunning, and probably the most fully
dimensioned interpretation of the role I have seen. Beatrice is sometimes
dismissed as underwritten. LaChiusa and Vitrano expose a powerful dynamic
between two partners, trapped in a marriage that is going tragically awry.
Vitrano mines Miller’s text for every shade and nuance, and LaChiusa adroitly
gives her all the latitude she needs. In this performance, Beatrice is easily
the most knowing and practical of the characters in the play—a woman who must
keep several competing and ultimately incompatible priorities in the balance.
Vitrano captures every subtlety.
Similarly, Andrea Gollhardt makes a great deal of Catherine. This is a woman
who is innocent, but not a fool. She craves the approval of her uncle, but must
ultimately face the fact that there is something unwholesome in his attentions.
Small gestures like lighting his cigar feel all the more creepy for the
unfettered innocence she brings to the task. We also feel misgivings when we
see her approach Rodolpho with identical simplicity. At the same time, the
scenes between Catherine and Beatrice are played exquisitely and powerfully.
The greatest virtue of LaChiusa’s fine performance is, indeed, its generosity.
In a role that could greedily grab all of the attention, the actor instead
fuels the performances of those around him and creates a character who seems to
get smaller and smaller with each turn of the plot. A towering king of his
domain in the opening scene, by the time Eddie makes his final exit, LaChiusa
has artfully diminished him to near irrelevance.
The literal “View from the Bridge” belongs to the narrative voice of Jack
Agugliaro as the neighborhood lawyer who bridges the expanse between
Italian-American ethics and the law. Miller uses the character as a kind of
Greek chorus in his modern tragedy, viewing the action, commenting on it, but
never having a true impact. Agugliaro gives a clear and finely modulated
performance that dispenses exposition with equal doses of pathos and humor,
while heightening the tragedy.
Schneiderman has guided his company to beautiful and well-modulated
performances and an illuminating reexamination of the relationships between the
characters. This is the strength of the production. His heavy directorial hand
does overstate the play at times. The choice to flash lines from the Emma
Lazarus poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor…”—onto
the backdrop after Eddie’s ultimate betrayal may successfully underscore the
mission of Subversive Theatre but misses the mark on the central theme of a
play. The law is a given. Eddie’s ethical violation speaks to more fundamental
truths. Similarly, the lack of ambiguity with which Marco pulls Eddie against
his own knife in the play’s climactic confrontation contradicts the deft moral
uncertainty of Miller’s script.
In addition to its other virtues, the production is beautifully designed with a
versatile and economical set by Greg Natale, appropriately extreme lighting by
Michael Lodick, an enriching sound design by Brian Zybala, and excellent
costumes by Carolyn Walleshauser. The production continues through May 3.