A View from the Bridge Review - Arthur Miller for Millennials

With Arthur Miller’s 101st birthday fast approaching, perhaps it’s time for an updated version of Miller’s 1955 play, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. Gone are the trappings Miller described in the 1950’s homey Brooklyn dwelling (including a rocking chair and a portable phonograph). Instead the stage is engineered to open and close like a giant maw confining the suffering characters forever within. On each side of the stage are graduated rows of audience seats (how does one qualify for those anyway?) The barren, brightly lit stage with sparkling cubes is the epitome of modern, but the presentation harks back to ancient Greece – or perhaps to that newcomer, Shakespeare.

Catherine Combs, Frederick Weller, and Andrus Nichols - Photo by Jan Versweyveld

The story may be familiar, but this Young Vic version of A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is very different from Miller’s vision. Award-winning director Ivo van Hove has fashioned a parallel world where physicality, slightly stilted movements, and awkward pauses telegraph more than mere words. Jan Versweyveld’s scenic and lighting design plays an important role in creating this new universe, as do Tom Gibbons’ throbbing rat-a-tat sound and modern costumes by An D’Huys.

Frederick Weller and Catherine Combs - Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Longshoreman Eddie (Frederick Weller) has a problem. His orphaned niece Catherine (Catherine Combs) has been living with him and his wife since she was 12, and Uncle Eddie has guided and protected her with a heavy hand the entire time. Now that she’s turning 18, however, she may just want to try her wings. While Eddie forbids her to grow up, his wife Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) subtly encourages her to leave the nest. Enter Marco and Rodolpho, Beatrice’s cousins, who come to the U.S. illegally from a poverty-stricken Italy to work. The two men will live in Eddie’s apartment with Eddie’s blessing – at first. However, as Rodolpho and Catherine begin to generate sparks, Eddie’s jealousy smolders. This is a genuine Oedipal situation, and one which Eddie – not given to insight – fails to recognize. A running commentary by attorney Alfieri (Thomas Jay Ryan), who becomes the Greek chorus, warns us that something bad may be coming. Shakespeare’s “fatal flaw” has a field day with Eddie.

Catherine Combs, Dave Register, Alex Esola, and Frederick Weller - Photo by Jan Versweyveld

The theme of immigrants coming to the U.S. for a better life is clearly evident. Fear of the government agency rooting out these same immigrants is a timely comment on today’s world. Yet, in this play, immigration plays second fiddle to the forbidden: Eddie’s incestuous passion for Catherine; unspoken issues of sexuality (marital, homosexual, and everything in between).

Catherine Combs and Andrus Nichols - Photo by Jan Versweyveld

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is an interesting and creative interpretation of Miller’s play, but it may not be for everyone – especially those who prefer a more traditional production. At times, the pacing is painfully and deliberately slow; and the ensuing frustration and discomfort may rub some audience members the wrong way. As time goes on, the piece becomes increasingly stylized – so that, by the end, it has almost become more style than substance. At the same time, one cannot fail to appreciate van Hove’s fresh approach to A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. He has taken Miller’s play out of mothballs and breathed new life into it.  Whether or not Miller would have been overjoyed with the result is a moot point.

Alex Esola, Catherine Combs, Frederick Weller, Danny Binstock, Andrus Nichols, Howard W. Overshown, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Dave Register - Photo by Jan Versweyveld

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE runs through October 16, 2016, with performances on Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Ahmanson Theatre is located in the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $25 to $125. For information and reservations, call 213-972-4400 or go online.   

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