Monday, January 25, 2010

A View From The Bridge (The SOB Review)

A View From The Bridge (The SOB Review) – Cort Theatre, New York City, New York

**1/2 (out of ****)

A view from a bridge can deceive the eyes. It can be akin to admiring a Monet from afar.

The elements for a masterpiece may all be there. But when examining them up close, the effect can be downright confounding as they are not necessarily what they seem. What had seemed like flowing images can suddenly become jarring and disparate.

Such is the case, on more than one count, with the respectable, yet oddly distant new Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s classic A View From The Bridge, which opened Sunday evening at the Cort Theatre. From a distance, all the elements are there that make it abound with promise.

For starters, estimable director Gregory Mosher is at the helm. Rather than resort to the histrionics employed by Simon McBurney in last year’s overwrought Miller revival of All My Sons, Mosher wisely opts for a more authentic and natural approach.

John Lee Beatty's scenic design effectively evokes the Brooklyn neighborhood filled with Italian immigrants, and Peter Kaczorowski’s moody lighting appropriately haunts the play, serving as a harbinger of the portentous tragedy.

Additionally, this revival boasts an unusually competent cast.

As Italian-American Eddie Carbone, the ever-formidable Liev Schreiber portrays a tough 50s-era longshoreman, who demands respect first and foremost. As Eddie’s wife Beatrice, the impressive Jessica Hecht once again loses herself in yet another New York City neighborhood role (she’s fresh off the closed-too-soon revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs and this production is fortunate to have her). A View From The Bridge also marks the impressive Broadway debut for film actress Scarlett Johannson as Catherine, the demure, yet blossoming teenage daughter of Eddie’s deceased sister. And Michael Cristofer effectively portrays the play’s one-man Greek chorus, albeit as Italian immigtant attorney Alfieri, with whom Eddie seeks counsel.

Then there’s the story itself, which on the surface appears to center on Eddie, a seemingly gracious man who had not only promised his dying sister he’d look after her only daughter, but also has clandestinely arranged to have his wife Bea’s Italian cousins smuggled into the country, providing them sanctuary and security.

But as with other Miller plays, upon closer examination -- and it's important to note that the playwright initially called this work "An Italian Tragedy" -- it soon becomes clear that an ominous undercurrent is threatening. (During my performance, it seemed as though a musical underscore had begun to swell right from the start, spelling impending doom. As the strange buzzing sound never abated, it became apparent that there was either something amiss with Scott Lehrer’s sound design or there was some other annoyance backstage detracting from the play.)

The abstract Miller has painted in A View From The Bridge is further hued with none too subtle shades of incest, as Eddie’s protection of Catherine becomes untenable, and homosexuality, as Eddie suggests that Bea’s cousins “ain’t right,” even as one of them -- Rodolpho (Morgan Spector) is threatening his grasp on Catherine. Heady themes to be sure, particularly considering they were much too controversial to be vividly painted by name at the time the play was originally produced.

Yet, somehow, even with all these essential elements present on the canvas, A View From The Bridge fails to coalesce into a deeply satisfying motif. It never really came completely together, leaving me to wonder if Miller had really intended this work to be viewed from afar all along.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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