Regional Reviews: St. Louis
A View from the Bridge
The text was a second chance for Miller's original 1955 script, upgraded from a one-act in verse, and ran for 149 performances in its 1956 rebirth. There were three other runs on Broadway after that. But Miller's greatest work, Death of a Salesman, ran for 749 performances in its original run, and his All My Sons for 348 in its first stagingso, based purely on the numbers, it's possible that A View from the Bridge may not have found its voice up till now, 62 years after it first emerged.
In this restaging of the 1956 two-act script, directed by Joe Hanrahan, a very tumultuous story gains, not just from political resonance, but also from a much-needed sense of realism. There are excellent, naturalistic performances from all on stage, led by Isaiah DiLorenzo as Eddie Carbone, a tough but goodhearted longshoreman.
But all the rough topics woven together by the blue-collar family in A View from the Bridge inevitably create a distance between the play and its audience: A strong, heartbreaking Oedipal theme, a lot of mid-century verbal gay-bashing, and the misery of illegal immigrants set against a heavy-handed enforcement system all combine to deliver tragedy to a nice Italian-American family in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood. It's a good thing the actors are so down to earth and likable in their performances (and that the real-world political landscape has shifted so dramatically). Otherwise, the script might flounder under it's own weight.
Like Death of a Salesman, this is an Everyman tragedy, with the psychological tenor of a good horror story. A noble working man has been too controlling and infantilizing of his adopted niece, apparently unaware that she's suddenly not a little girl any more. Everything depends not on gods or fates or secret letters, but on our own meager pride and vanity and jealousy. Enter at your own risk, John Q. Public.
But it's indisputably wonderful to watch Mr. DiLorenzo's just-right theatricality and, equally, that of Erin Struckhoff as Eddie's wife. A year ago she was gracious and persevering as Mary Haines in Clayton's The Women, and here she elevates a Miller stock character, the all-seeing, truth-telling Beatrice, with a performance full of unspoken anguish. Emily Leidenfrost is likewise immaculate as Eddie's lovable niece Catherine (Katie). In spite of the distancing effect of the themes at hand, there's no shame in being gripped by the Carbone family's predicament. Like any good modern tragedy, we watch helplessly as their household cleaves and threatens to wash away, like a massive ice shelf falling into the sea.
In the polished "second tier" of actors, Dan Heise and Joe Ruskey do very nicely as Italian boys looking for work on the docks of New York. Mr. Heise is full of genuine romance for life and, eventually, for Katie, too. The conflict between his Rodolpho and Mr. DiLorenzo's Eddie seems locker-room jokey at first, and then increasingly tense as Rodolpho's romance with Katie blossoms. Mr. Ruskey is great as the more stoic of the two immigrants, whose own family depends on him from across a wide ocean.
Sam Hack is wise in a soft-spoken but immediate way as Alfieri, the lawyer/narrator. He adds bookish weight, and Miller's own timeless vision, to a story that could be merely melodramatic. Beyond the silky smooth direction, it is this "Greek chorus" character that lifts the whole thing into the realm of art.
Everyone on stage finds their voice, except for the most tragic character of all, who must lose his. Eddie Carbone is the king of his castle, until fear and hatred get the better of him.
Through March 5, 2017, at the Washington University South Campus (the former CBC prep school), 6501 Clayton Rd., across from the Esquire Theatre. For more information visit www.placeseveryone.org.