It says something remarkable about the playwright Arthur Miller and the director Ivo Van Hove that no matter how many times you’ve seen their respective works, their first collaboration – on the new Broadway revival of Miller’s 1955 drama A View from the Bridge – can become one of the most surprising theatrical achievements in recent memory.
Van Hove’s innovative, bare-bones approach – in which designer Jan Versweyveld has essentially placed a glass cage on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre with spectators seated on both sides, with the actors dressed in plain clothes (by An D’Huys) and barefoot – may first feel like just another of his trademark gimmicks. However, by the end of these two intermissionless hours, you realize how this savvy helmer has forced us to really listen to Miller’s words.
Even if you’ve heard them before (as I have at least four times), you’re likely to discover new resonances, interpret new meanings and find yourself riveted by Miller’s version of Greek tragedy. Should this be your first experience with the play (or Van Hove), I can only imagine that you’ll find this experience little short of breathtaking.
Much of the credit is due to the mostly British cast, led here by the indomitable Mark Strong, who gives a bravura performance as the Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, a man both caught up in his idea of honor and out of touch with his own feelings. His tragedy is not just that he never understands how others might react to his more-than-familial attention to his 17-year-old niece Catherine (a well-cast Phoebe Fox), whom he has raised for most of her life; it’s that he doesn’t understand his innermost self.
Yet, even up to the final moments, we hope for something other than tragedy – especially as Eddie’s long-suffering wife Beatrice (a superb Nicola Walker) is far from blind from what’s going on in her marriage, nor is she unaware of her complicity in this complex situation. And here, it’s almost a question if the biggest question is Eddie’s attraction to his niece Catherine or his unspoken desire for Rodolfo (a platinum-blond Russell Tovey, doing a brilliant job of leaving us slightly in doubt about his character), Beatrice’s cousin from Italy who latches onto Catherine.
Then again, as the show’s “narrator,” neighborhood lawyer Alfieri (an extremely believable Richard Gould) tells us early on, what will happen to Eddie is his “destiny,” making both his actions and feelings moot. And although we know Miller doesn’t do happy endings, we envision bells and shoes and rice falling on Catherine’s wedding day to Rodolfo, and not the literal bloodbath that Von Hove (and Miller) so deftly orchestrates.
Rarely has a production of a well-worn classic made me rethink my own views on a play as much as this extraordinary View from the Bridge.