Scott Rudin, Lincoln Center Theater
with Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson
Mark Strong, Nicola Walker
Phoebe Fox, Russell Tovey
Michael Zegen, Michael Gould, Richard Hansell
The Young Vic Production
A View From the Bridge
(A View From the Bridge Website)
Directed by Ivo Van Hove
A Schubert Organization
149 West 45th Street
Scenic and Lighting Design: Jan Versweyveld
Costume Design: An D’Huys
Sound Design: Tom Gibbons
Production Stage Manager: Martha Donaldson
Press Representative: Philip Rinaldi
UK Casting: Julia Horan CDG
Company Manager: Katrina Elliott
Production Manager: Aurora Productions
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 27, 2015
I was totally caught by surprise tonight with The Young Vic Production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. Five years ago, I had raved about a production of this play, starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, for its dramatic strength and nuance. Yet, tonight’s production, directed by Ivo Van Hove at The Lyceum, synthesizes Miller’s oeuvre with operatic results. I thought of stripped-down stagings of the opera Manon (at The Met) and the ballet Romeo + Juliet (at City Ballet). The actors, tonight, were attired in street clothes without shoes, performing without intermission, without scenic furniture or walls, without even a full stage. Rows of audience seats are tiered, stage left and right, tightening a box-like space, with a metal front wall, that slowly rises at first stage light. We don’t see the Brooklyn docks of the longshoremen, but rather two men wiping their own body’s sweat with worn towels. Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) and his friend, Louis (Richard Hansell), are seen in bare-chested muscularity, routinely ending a long day’s physical work. Alfieri (Michael Gould), Eddie’s confidant-lawyer-advisor, is the play’s narrator, a virtual one-man Greek chorus. Mr. Gould’s rhythmic, baritone voice is expanded dramatically by Tom Gibbons’ sound design, with an enveloping electronic pulse, imbued with spirituality. The play is first dreamlike, then soon nightmarish, as the viewer braces for imminent doom, even while the dialogue includes hope.
Eddie lives with his oft-rejected wife, Beatrice (Nicola Walker), who wants Eddie to “be a husband” again. But, the object of Eddie’s obsession is his teenage niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox), who still chats with her uncle near the bathtub. Catherine’s mother died very young, and the teen has grown to be ripe with sexuality, that pulsates like the sound. Beatrice sees all and becomes a human firewall, begging Eddie not to carry Catherine on his torso like a child. But, primal impulses intrude throughout this two-hour, intermission-less play. When Eddie learns that Beatrice has opened their small home to two adult nephews from Sicily, Marco (Michael Zegen) and Rodolpho (Russell Tovey), he becomes crazed with territorial dread and jealousy. Those fears are realized, when Rodolpho, who sings and dances, strikes up a romance with Catherine, and Marco, a strapping, strong man, competes with Eddie in a chair-lifting dare. Tensions escalate, as Eddie taunts Rodolpho about his lack of manliness. The ever-present fear is with immigration services, that look for illegals taking good-paying, union jobs. The Sicilian-American code of protecting family in need becomes, for Eddie, the force on the seesaw that briefly balances his brooding hostility. But, the pounding electronic score, stark smoky lighting, and Mr. Strong’s deep, glaring eyes warn the audience of impending disaster.
Mr. Strong will surely be seen again, hopefully soon, on Broadway, with this remarkable impersonation of Miller’s tormented Eddie Carbone. He moves about like a baited lion, watching his predators and prey. Ms. Fox is an impulsive Catherine, like a leaping, forestial creature. Ms. Walker, as Beatrice, moves with seething restraint, a woman seemingly imprisoned in thankless servitude. Mr. Zegen, as Marco, moves with stealth street sense, daring to forestall fate. Mr. Tovey, as the complex Rodolpho, who may be eyeing a marriage for citizenship, rather than love, adds gestural nuance and warmth to this icy cold drama. As Alfieri, Mr. Gould is analytical and informative, before he, then barefoot, becomes involved in the imploding plot. Mr. Van Hove keeps most characters onstage throughout the evening, on the sidelines or in the spotlight. Each actor is fully demonstrative in persona and affect, often in silence. Jan Versweyveld’s set and lighting are intertwined for immersive effect. An D’Huys’ costumes are nondescript, extra-casual streetwear. Tom Gibbons’ sound is a star on its own. Kudos to all.