Practically Peter Productions’ rendition of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge is a bold, confident, and self-assured production of the classic twentieth century drama. Under the powerful direction of Joel Stanley and Joe Woodman, this well-known period piece comes to life in the Michael Pilch Studio, with the talented cast breathing life into a classic script.
The basic tale of A View from the Bridge is a fairly simple domestic story – when his wife Beatrice invites her Italian relatives to live with them in America as illegal immigrants, Eddie Carbone becomes gradually isolated by his jealousy over his niece Catherine’s budding relationship with new arrival Rodolpho. The tale is narrated to us by lawyer Alfieri, as he reflects on Eddie’s increasingly frantic visits to him and his escalating confessions of frustrated jealousy.
The power of the play is partly in the way that the Carbone household acts as a microcosmic representation of wider themes. National identity, immigration, and (implied) incest are all addressed through the lens of the Carbone family, and clever spatial direction from Stanley and Woodman enables this expressionism to take centre stage. The forced removal of Marco and Rodolpho from the house by a Gestapo-like immigration bureau is watched by an entire off-stage neighbourhood, and a block at the back of the stage represents the docks that Eddie and the men work on. Aside from the clever use of space from the directors, Flora Faulk’s intelligent set design helps reinforce the relationship between the Carbone household and the outside world: the thrust staging means we are immersed in the family’s living room before the play even begins, and the cold wash that is used by Kristen Chiama and Tara Sallis to separate the docks from the rest of the stage reinforces the division between the two worlds, which the course of the play will come to erode. The entire space is used to great effect, and while sight lines are occasionally an issue, the overall effect is that we are absorbed in the world of the play from start to finish.
The intelligent direction is matched by the excellent performances given by the cast. Catherine is played with vitality by Philomena Wills, and Martha Berkmann is also excellent as Beatrice, a woman stuck in the tragic position of having to choose between her niece and her husband. The gradual breakdown of her relationship with Eddie (Caleb Barron) has a powerfully kind of subdued nature, which contrasts with the urgent tone of the rest of the play, and so Berkmann’s performance really emphasises the tragedy of Beatrice’s powerless position. Among the supporting cast, Alexander Marks particularly stands out, with his convincing Italian accent and gentle strength as Marco, Rodolpho’s principled brother, and the agent of the play’s final tragic denouement. When the lights finally went down, there was an audible sense of disappointment from the audience that the play had come to a close.
Practically Peter Productions have not attempted to radically innovate or edit Miller’s original play, but this is to their credit. This version of A View From The Bridge is truthful, simple, and powerful, and the talented cast and crew responsible for it should be commended. Grab a ticket while you still can.