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A View From the Bridge

A View From the Bridge
A View From the Bridge
Lyceum Theatre
149 - West 45nd Street, NYC 
Preview: Oct. 21, 2015 Opening: Nov. 12, 2015; Closing Feb. 21, 2016
One hour, 50 min. No intermission
Playwright: Arthur Miller
Director: Ivo Van Hove
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Even if you have seen other versions of A View From the Bridge, including the excellent 2011 production, you will leave the Lyceum Theatre feeling as if you have never seen this American classic before. London's Young Vic production is re-visited by Belgian director, Ivo Van Hove, stripping away the extraneous and leaving playwright Arthur Miller's 1956 slice of naturalism tense with stunning suspense.

For almost two hours with no intermission, the tension builds as hero, Eddie Carbone, battles his demons in his Italian immigrant neighborhood of Red Hook, not far from the Brooklyn Bridge, the path to opportunity. A longshoreman, Eddie is viewed as a hero through the prism of a Greek tragedy in a simple box setting with few props, no shoes, stark lighting, and ominous sounds.

Narrator Alfieri (Michael Gould), acts like a chorus, standing aside, watching the community immigrants and their compromises that splintered them from American society.
"Now we are quite civilized, quite American," he says. "We settle for half, and I like it better." While a serious Alfieri stands apart from the action, he is totally involved and in the dramatic ending, he is destroyed with everyone else.
Through Alfieri, we meet Eddie, portrayed with stern force by Mark Strong. An illegal immigrant himself, he is fiercely protective of the rules of Red Hook, where he lives with his wife and niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox). Eddie shows an excessive attachment to Catherine, a passion he will not face. The vivacious but naive girl seems clueless of this abnormal relationship and feeds into it with inappropriate physical contact and gestures like lighting her uncle's cigar with savory attention. Eddie melts as the girl leaps into his arms or wraps herself around his legs. He refuses to ease his hold on her even when his wife looks on. These blind desires barrel through the community codes leading everyone to a theatrical crash.
Nicola Walker walks a tight line in her astute portrayal Eddie's wife, Beatrice, a hard-working housewife. While she is aware of her husband's obsession for her niece, she knows the traditional woman's limits and keeps the boundaries. Tentatively she reminds her husband that Catherine is growing up and needs her freedom to mature. Yet Beatrice acts according to the rules.
The already tentative family unit is threatened when Beatrice's two relatives, Rodolpho (Russell Tovey), and his older brother, Marco (Michael Zegen) arrive illegally to stay with the Carbones. Rodolpho, young and fun-loving, aching to go out and explore the city, quickly decides this is the life for him. He wants to be an American while Marco saves every cent to send back to his family and he will later join them in Sicily. The two work with Eddie at the Brooklyn docks and try to keep a low profile, avoiding the immigration authorities. The neighborhood traditionally protects them with a strict moral code of "Don't name names."

Problems arise when Catherine and Rodolpho fall in love. While Eddie always ruled his family, his control vanished, leaving him overcome with jealousy to see the couple together. When they later plan to marry, Eddie's anger turns to outrage and he is determined to stop them. He knows the community rules against revealing identities but he does not face his own unacceptable feelings toward his niece, which is his tragic flaw.

In this role that earned him London's Olivier Award, Mark Strong is galvanizing as the unschooled blue-collar, flawed Eddie. He cannot suppress his glowering hatred of Rodolpho and the tension is arresting as we watch his face and physical movements when Catherine is near, enjoying her presence yet disapproving of her dress. "Katie, you are walkin' wavey! I don't like the looks they're givin' you in the candy store. And with them new high heels n the sidewalk? Clack, clack, clack...? The heads are turnin' like windmills."
Scenic and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld's set sets a timeless and elemental mood, with no furniture except a chair used for an old-world macho competition of strength. Van Hove (Antigone) keeps tight, unrelenting pressure with Jan Versweyveld's stark lighting with Tom Gibbons' suspiciously ominous sound effects of relentless drumbeats and an ill-boding rumble.
Brooklyn accents are uneven but not problematic. There are some questions, such as why costume designer An D’Huys dressed the 1950's women in contemporary clothes. On two sides are bleachers for audience members and with the actors working in bare feet, do these effects further dramatize the vulnerability of the hemmed in setting?
Ivo Van Hove re-imagining of A View From the Bridge, a play with historic relevance to the 1950's McCarthy Era and to the Terrorism Watch List in today's headlines, is a theatrical winner on many levels.

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