The Edge Theater’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge doesn’t go for electrifying drama or make a point of foreshadowing the play’s incipient violence in the naturalistic early scenes. But this in no way diminishes the involving nature of the experience, the shock of the climax or the sorrow of the ending — and in some ways, it enhances these things.
Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn longshoreman, a hardworking stiff who’s created a stable life — though hardly a luxurious one — for his family: his wife, Beatrice, and Catherine, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Beatrice’s dead sister, whom they have raised together. At first the relationship between Eddie and Catherine is playful and affectionate. But when he allows two Italian immigrants, his cousins Marco and Rodolpho, into his home and Catherine begins to fall in love with Rodolpho, long-submerged feelings begin to surface. We realize soon enough that Eddie loves Catherine. Meanwhile, Rodolpho talks to the girl about Italy’s orange and lemon trees, the fountains in Italian towns, the mountain scenery. He’s a fascinating change from the regular Brooklyn guys she knows: a man who can sew, who sings and dances. Eddie seizes on the differences that enchant his niece as proof that Rodolpho is gay — or “not right,” as he puts it. He also insists that Rodolpho is only courting her to acquire a green card.
Immigration drives the plot. We hear about the destitution in Italy and Marco’s determination to send money home to his wife and hungry children. We learn, too, about the mechanisms by which an earlier generation of immigrants supports newcomers and protects them from the immigration authorities. But this isn’t primarily a story about newcomers adjusting to life in a strange country. The emotional heart of the play is Eddie’s struggle, and themes of loyalty and betrayal animate the action. To understand the longshoremen’s loathing for snitches and rats, it’s worth remembering that the play takes place in 1955, at the height of the McCarthy era, and that Miller himself had personal experience with the repression. Eddie’s unleashed feeling for a young woman who loves and trusts him is also a betrayal — one that borders on incest, even though Catherine isn’t related to him by blood.
The easy flow of the dialogue, the vivid characterizations and the compelling plot all testify to Miller’s brilliance, but there are flaws. The presence of a narrator — Eddie’s lawyer, Alfieri — feels like an unnecessary attempt to add weight and profundity to a story that doesn’t need help. Kevin Hart plays Alfieri with an easy realism that contrasts well with Eddie’s fevered intensity, but when he gives a cloudy, portentous eulogy at the end — “I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory...for he allowed himself to be wholly known” — it’s hard not to snort.
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When Miller first came to prominence, there was a lot of talk about his genius in expanding the concept of the classical tragic hero — the noble fellow with one fatal flaw — and applying it to ordinary people like Eddie Carbone and Death of a Salesman’s Willy Loman, but I never saw it. Loman is just too whiny. Eddie has a lot more passion and backbone, and I can’t imagine him better portrayed than by Rick Yaconis, who gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability as well as self-destructive rage. But as written, Eddie simply doesn’t have tragic stature or any level of self-awareness. Abby Apple Boes enlists our empathy as patient, long-suffering Beatrice, and newcomer Amelia Corrada brings a beautiful freshness and innocence to the role of Catherine, rejoicing in the newfound freedoms of adulthood like a colt loosed in a green pasture. Benjamin Cowhick’s Rodolpho combines a winning mixture of innocence and determination with just a touch of sweet goofiness, and Jonathan Brown’s dark silences as brooding Marco are riveting.
John Ashton has directed a thoughtful, layered production that lives in the small, telling details: Beatrice at the table prepping vegetables or worrying about whether she has enough food for the new arrivals, Catherine’s dutiful submission beginning to unravel as a world of color and light calls to her, Eddie sinking wearily into his chair after a day of work. Don’t miss it.
A View From the Bridge, presented by Edge Theater Company through December 31, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, 303-232-0363, theedgetheater.com.