Pear Theatre’s "View from the Bridge" by Arthur Miller Review - No “Sanctuary City” Seen

Pear Theatre's production of Arthur Miller's  "View from the Bridge" moves and astonishes. Calling all Bay Area citizens, old and newbie theatre goers, concerned with looming immigrant deportation crisis to 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View.  Witness the  powerful classic broadway level performances of Geoff Fiorito as sexually repressed, morally conflicted,  Eddie Carbone;  April Culver, as sweet, independence gaining,  Catherine and Marjorie Hazeltine as, Beatrice, a strong female voice of rationality and compassion. Resentiment, anger and angst over not receiving family and society's approbation and reward (classic Miller male character ingredients familiar from "Death of a Salesman")  boomeranging into hurtful actions.


April Culver, Geoff (Jeffrey) Fiorito and Marjorie Hazeltine

Tragedy is foreshadowed in the  Prologue where  a respected Italian American lawyer, outlines a seemingly inevitable sequence of events that he feels powerless to alter despite best efforts, and the advice of a respected female elder.  Attorney Alfieri, whom the Redhook Brooklyn Italian-American working class  immigrant community look to for counsel legal and moral, beyond performed, is  masterfully lived by Brian Levi.  Recuperating Tieriseas, the seer in Oedipus Rex  who outlines an inevitable future course of events, with no deflection possible. Overwhelming cultural forces, personal interests and political constraints, intersect to create an explosive, combustible mixture that  inevitably ignites when  familial hospitality brings a competitive male dynamic into an already fraught domestic scene.


Geoff (Jeffrey) Fiorito and April Culver

Two men land in New York with false seaman papers,  Anthony Stevens as Rodolpho, is a young man seeking his future, a young man seeking a future in depression era America that nevertheless offered more opportunity than southern Italy; Drew Reitz  as Marco, an older man temporarily seeking to send home funds to his family until he could return with a nest-egg  An immigration officers knock on the door in response to  a treacherous tip, sets in motion the final stage of an inevitability. The simulacrum of a boxing ring setting provides a force field in which which this domestic drama escalates until it implodes with atomic force. The radiation poison here is jealousy of an older driven man, who has sacrificed for his niece to have a better life, of an insouciant  younger man who is going to take her away and, so to speak, enjoy the fruits of the elder’s labor. The pain of the generations separating and going their own ways is a traditional dramatic plot as in "Father of  the Bride", but whereas this upper middle class drama works itself out wistfully; the working class version in “View” ties itself in a knot that can only be released through violence.


Marjorie Hazeltine and Geoff (Jeffrey) Fiorito




Past/Future Loop


In danger of repeating in the early 21st, without sufficient  resistance, a xenophobic political movement in early  20th century US severely limited immigration from non-Anglo Saxon countries. There was apparently little opposition at the time so the Asian, Jewish and Italian ban succeeded whereas the contemporary Muslim ban may not. The plot is driven by  the  wave of early 20th century immigration laws including the Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, i the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act  directed against Asians, Jews and southern Europeans, using the seemingly neutral criteria of 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States as of the 1890 census.  Legal Italian  immigration reduced by 90%, a succession of agricultural depressions in early 20th century Sicily impelled people to  leave for the US to seek, work, some intending to return after earning sufficient funds to establish themselves  economically back home while others, usually younger and unattached plan to stay.


Jeffrey Firorito, Marjorie Hazeltine, April Culver

A macroeconomic collision with a xenophobic wave produces a combustible mix, then as now. These are the plot elements that set the stage for what is viewed form the bridge.  Bridge, of course has various meanings. On the one hand, it is the command center of a ship, the vessel’s  center of authority and direction in the person of its captain. In other contexts, such as theatre, "bridge" takes the  meaning of  a crossing, physical and/or metaphorical.  It is a structure that allows movement from one place to another, gradually reducing differences as increasing crossings are made.


Thirdly, a bridge may  simply  provide  a height from which to look down upon water and passing vessels or nearby land. In this incase, it is likely the third meaning that predominates, with the Brooklyn Bridge overlooking the Redhook waterfront section of Brooklyn where longshoreman hand unloaded cargo ships with their hooks.


Jeffrey Firorito, Marjorie Hazeltine, April Culver

Indeed Miller’s primarily domestic drama was apparently a precursor for the broader canvas painted in the classic Film "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint, representing contrasting and shifting ideologies and visions of immigrants subject to familial and clan constraints intersected by an optimistic American reform democratic  vision with the potential to override ancient traditions. The Bridge protagonists, represent an “ur” working out of these forces, with an alternative democratic idea, present only as an unattainable alternative through the advice of the lawyer, whom the protagonist is unable to follow, perhaps not even fully able to understand and certainly not believe.


American Tragedy


Of course a play, even one of Pirandello’s with apparent fluidity, is an inevitable structure, apart from  when drama devolves into improvisation.  "Second City" sketches are invented in response to audience requests but even these have a template to guide the response. "The View from the Bridge" is cloudy.  A  sexually frustrated man, too powerfully attracted to his niece, is unable to let go.  The wistful longing to retain the quasi father-daughter relationship that undergoes a peaceful transition in "Father of the Bride", ends in death and the destruction of two families in this Tragedy of economic depression and xenophobic passion.


Marjorie Hazeltine, Richard Holman, Geoff (Jeffrey) Fiorito, April Culver

Skeptical of his young house guests romantic interest in his niece, viewing it as a practical interest tin obtaining citizenship rather than a genuine romantic interest  interpreting  his insouciant manner as a gay identity;  Eddie Carbone tries to force Rodolpho out of the closet with a full face kiss. When all persuasion fails to dissuade her from giving up her suitor, despite his wife’ desperate effort to convince him that he was acting in thrall to psychosexual interest which he was unable to recognize, and control. At the end of his rope, he takes the fateful step of turning his illegal immigrant household guests over to the immigration authorities, violating the basic rule of sanctuary ingrained in the southern Italian Immigrant community, making himself an outcast since it was apparent that he was the source of betrayal despite abject denials. The denouncement is revenge from a temporary immigrant whose family will lose their only source of support; a knife is drawn a fight ensues. 

Check the Pear website for further information and tickets.


Geoff (Jeffrey) Fiorito

Photos by (Ray Renati)


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