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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
at Lyceum Theater

FIGHTING FOR LIFE
By FIONA MOUNTFORD

  Mark strong and company/ Ph: Jan Versweyveld

"Do you know this play?" asked the two pleasant Baltimore ladies next to me in the raked banks of onstage seating as we chatted idly pre-show. I was momentarily taken aback. "What, this famous work by Arthur Miller?" I asked. "Yes," they replied. "We don’t know it. We really wanted to see the Carole King musical but there were no tickets. So tell us the plot." "You surely don’t want a Brit telling you about a modern American classic," I said. "Just watch – you’ll be gripped, I promise. I’ve seen this production before in London."
 
Mercifully, I was right. The ladies were most taken by the show, and I, on my third viewing of this illuminating retelling, found the sense of power and doom brought to it by Belgian director Ivo van Hove even stronger than ever. The not-inconsiderable risk of bringing a cast of Brits to Broadway in an American play had paid off.
 
But then this is by no means your average production of A View from the Bridge. For starters, it unfolds on a bare playing space, hemmed in by small walls of clear plastic. It’s akin to a boxing ring, in which Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) is literally fighting for his life. The lack of décor makes it non-period-specific, and this one small space, with a solitary door, stands for every location, both inside and out. Van Hove has dreamt up an almost ritualized staging, and the action unwinds as inexorably, and timelessly, as a Greek tragedy. This is Miller raised to a whole new level, with all the clutter and accretions of the years ruthlessly stripped away. We watch as if through fresh eyes, and it’s revelatory.
 
My English ears aren’t sharply attuned enough to pinpoint accent discrepancies, but the voices certainly wander a little. That aside, Van Hove has assembled a magnificent cast, led by Strong as the coiled, increasingly beleaguered but still antagonistic paterfamilias, who might just be harboring illicit feelings for his 17-year-old niece Catherine (rising star of London stage and screen Phoebe Fox). The still, quiet heartbeat of the piece is provided by the quietly compelling Nicola Walker as Eddie’s watchful, perceptive wife Beatrice.
 
The arrival of Beatrice’s two cousins, illegal immigrants from Sicily, is what pushes this already fragile domestic harmony off-kilter, as Catherine is instantly smitten by the unpredictable Rodolpho (Russell Tovey, physically rather too imposing for this delicate role). The plangent strains of Fauré’s "Requiem," which echo in the background from the beginning, are temporarily replaced by the insistent sound of a ticking clock as tension mounts ominously in the Carbones’ now-overcrowded Red Hook home. Fox, a wonderfully expressive performer, traces an arc from lively girl to sorrowful, mature young woman.
 
Van Hove returns to Broadway in February with yet more British (and Irish) actors for another dose of Miller, this time The Crucible. His production of A View from the Bridge stands as definitive proof that he is a director with a vision.

 


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