NTL's "View from the Bridge": Soleless but Soulful

Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong & Nicola Walker in "A View From the Bridge"
(photo: National Theatre Live/Young Vic)
National Theatre Live's latest HD Broadcast was the London Young Vic production of Arhtur Miller's play "A View from the Bridge", helmed by Belgian Director Ivo Van Hove. This production was recently (and quite deservedly) nominated for a total of seven Olivier Awards (for best revival, director, actor, supporting actress, lighting, set, and sound). In the 1955 introduction to the first publication of the play, Miller referred to his play as “social drama”, with “man as victim, made unhappy by restlessness”. He also noted that the play was “in one act because, quite simply, I did not know how to pull a curtain down anywhere before its end; while writing it, I kept looking for an act curtain, a point of pause, but none ever developed”. Five years later, when a revised edition of the play was published, Miller's introductory notes elaborated on "the viewpoint of Eddie's wife, and her dilemma in relation to him, which made it necessary to break the play in the middle for an intermission. One afternoon, I saw my own involvement in this story; revisions subsequently made were in part the result of that new awareness.” As he further wrote, “it is more possible now to relate (Eddie's) actions to our own and thus to understand ourselves a little better not only as isolated psychological entities but as we connect to our fellows and our long past together.” Played once again without an intermission, making for a lengthy but viscerally exciting single act, that enhanced connection continues over half a century later, especially in this extraordinarily shattering production, full of soul, enacted by the cast in bare feet throughout.

The story, which takes place in the 1950's in an Italian American neighborhood near the Brooklyn Bridge, is narrated (as a sort of Greek chorus) by Alfieri (Michael Gould). It centers about a longshoreman, Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong), who is obsessed with his orphaned niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) who lives with him and his wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker). Beatrice's cousins Marco (Emun Elliott) and Rodolfo (Luke Norris), undocumented aliens from Sicily, arrive in the U.S. in need of a safe haven. Eddie invites them to stay with his family, a decision he regrets when Catherine and Rodolfo begin dating without his permission. Jealous to the point of paranoia, Eddie forces Rodolfo to box with him, partly in response to rumors expressed by his co-worker Louis (Richard Hansell) about the immigrant's sexual identity (since he sings jazz, cooks, sews and loves to dance, and there was no concept of metrosexuality in the 1950's). When Eddie learns the young lovers have slept together and will marry, he suspects Rodolfo's aim is to obtain citizenship, so he kisses him passionately to embarrass him, ultimately turning the refugees in to the immigration authorities, a cardinal sin in the Italian American community. Arrested by a local Officer (Pádraig Lynch), they are freed on bail set up by Alfieri. Marco accuses Eddie of the betrayal, and a fight ensues, bringing the story to a tragic climax as the neighbors look on. The staging of the final scene in this version was wonderful, raw and ingenious.

Van Hove's direction was meticulously fine, well-nigh perfect. Strong was firmly at the head and heart of this terrific ensemble, with Walker and Fox equally memorable. Actually, the entire cast was absolutely marvelous. The creative team members are all on the same page, providing the spare and sparse Set and Lighting Design (by Jan Versweyveld), the extraordinarily accentuated Sound Design (by Tom Gibbons, and authentically simple Costume Design (by An D'Huys), with the added effective use of several parts of the Fauré Requiem, from the Kyrie to Libera me, domine. In a season that included such productions as “Skylight”, “The Audience” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, each of which is now playing on Broadway, this latest broadcast was in many ways the most outstanding offering in National Theatre Live's very active and memorable year.

Screened at Cape Cinema in Dennis, MA; next from NTL: Stoppard's "Hard Problem" on April 16th

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