A View From The Bridge, by Arthur Miller. Directed by Aaron Holbritter. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
Amy Hausknecht, Meaghan Rogers, Anthony Holloway, Christian Leahy, Bill Shein; photo: Cindy Smith
"I know a lot more than people think I know."
Meaghan Rogers, Bill Shein; photo: Cindy Smith
Pride is a commodity too valuable to gamble and lose. In Arthur Miller's play, "A View From The Bridge" Eddie Carbone puts his pride on the line and he loses face in ways that are difficult to explain. His neighbors finger him for something his own wife accuses him of doing although she has no proof and no one in his community can supply any proof either. He loses the gamble through the obvious logic used to discredit his pleas of innocence. For all the people around him there has been too much evidence for far too long. He and his wife are childless and they have raised her niece, Catherine. His over-protection of her for twenty years has pointed the way to their assumptions and the circumstances that have occurred clearly indicate the intensity of his interest in her.
Written by Miller as a one-act verse drama in 1955 it was rewritten as a two act play and presented first in London in 1956. It is the second version that the Ghent Playhouse is presenting for a two weekend run. The drama is potent and powerful and pleasant to watch in this well-staged, nicely acted edition. The cast in Ghent, NY has been well chosen and Aaron Holbritter has utilized the excellent set designed by Cathy Lee-Visscher and Sam Reilly extremely well. The set consists of the Carbone apartment, the street, the docks in Red Hook, Brooklyn and a lawyer's office in the early 1950s.
Miller's biggest hit to date had been "Death of a Salesman" and in that work the ultimate moments belonged not to the Salesman Will Loman or his two sons but to his wife Linda who has the drive and the wit to call a spade a spade and set the record straight. Miller followed that formula, giving the dramatic moments to Eddie and Catherine, to Marco and Rudolpho but saving the big spoken out revelations to Beatrice, Eddie's wife. (Miller does this in other plays as well including "All My Sons," and "The Ride Down Mount Morgan.")
Beatrice is played quite beautifully by Amy Hausknecht. The actress had the good sense to play this maligned wife with a tenderness and inner strength that allowed her shouted revelations late in Act Two to become like thunder from a becalmed sky. Hausknecht used her vulnerability beautifully and her clearly torn loyalties with a strained sense of affirmation. I couldn't have liked her more. Other actresses I have seen in the role have generally been harsher, stricter and more controlling throughout but this interpretation in Ghent felt genuine and correct.
Meaghan Rogers, Anthony Holloway, Christian Leahy, Gary Maggio; photo: Cindy Smith
As the lawyer, Alfieri, who narrates the story (supposedly how Miller first heard the tale in reality) Gary Maggio handles what is left of the original poetry very well. His performance is strong and steady and could have used a tiny bit of a goose in the final monologue, but aside from that he played Alfieri with the grace the role requires.
Beatrice's two cousins from Italy, illegal immigrants - talk about a relevant story these days -
were played by Christian Leahy as Marco and Anthony Holloway as Rudolpho. They become permanent guests in the Carbone apartment and, inevitably, Catherine and Rudolpho fall in love which is what preciptates Eddie's anger and jealousy. Holloway is very good as the young swain. In the scene that opens Act Two he truly takes hold of his role and brings out qualities in Rudolpho not anticipated from the first half of the play. Leahy as the older brother Marco understands the rage inside his man as he is dependent on the kindess and generosity of a man, Eddie, he know cannot stand his presence. He indicates this through a physical tension and rigid face that makes him the better man even when his own fury is uncontrollable. These are two very good performances.
The incidental performances, neighbors, friends, immigration officials were well performed and totally in keeping with the tone of the play.
Gary Maggio, Bill Shein; photo: Cindy Smith
Bill Shein is the anchor for this play's emotional content. As Eddie he is constantly switching from open adoration to obvious hatred, to confused human being to determined villain. He is the Italian-American of the era, not a gangster or clans-man, not a drunkard, not a sex-demon, but a human being who has all this available to him and who cannot reconcile his true emotional self with the day-to-day person he must be to continue with his routine existence. Shein's anger boils at a dangerous level before erupting from the hot pot he finds himself in from one day to the next. He uses a placid face to try to disguise the disgust and lust we hear in his voice. His abuse of his loyal wife is heart-breaking and his final outbursts after her revelations, her exposure of the secrets she has held close for years are heart-stopping. This is his best performance to date.
Much of this may be due to the determined control exercised by director Holbritter. The performances are tight. There seems to be no moment that hasn't been choreographed to within an iota of perfection. A few moments in the first act seemed slow, but there is much information to be absorbed and few words available in the script. On this excellent set, with fine lighting by Joe Sicotte, perfect costumes by Joanne Maurer and an excellent musical undescore from Holbritter himself, this production is one of the best of the season at the Ghent Playhouse. The opening night audience felt the same way it seemed.
A View From The Bridge plays through April 14 at the Ghent Playhouse, 6 Town Hall Place, Ghent, NY. For information and tickets go to their website at ghentplayhouse.org.