Review: ‘A View From the Bridge’ at The Lyceum Theatre in NYC

Arthur Miller, in this, the celebratory season  of his 100th birthday, is having a banner year, with productions of his major and minor works popping up all over the place. From the first group we have A View From The Bridge, in a vivid and daring production from the Young Vic in Britain, brought to us by a consortium of altruistic American producers, a group consisting of Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Daryl Roth, John Gore, the Lincoln Center Theatre, and other visionaries, and the Broadway season is brightened by their largesse.

Phoebe Fox (Catherine), Mark Strong (Eddie), and Nicola Walker (Beatrice) in 'A View From the Bridge.' Photo by Jan Versweyveld.
Phoebe Fox (Catherine), Mark Strong (Eddie), and Nicola Walker (Beatrice) in ‘A View From the Bridge.’ Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

A cast of seven marvelous British actors, none of whom are known here, under the direction of Ivo Van Hove, has tackled  this very New York (actually Brooklyn) story, and come up with an authentic all American tragedy that is stunning.  Mr. Van Hove is making his Broadway debut with this memorable concept of his. As General Director of Holland’s  leading  theatre company (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) he has staged dozens of major plays, many of them in New York at the New York Theatre Workshop and at BAM in Brooklyn. He brings an original and often controversial vision to each project.

I was more disturbed  than fascinated with his approach to Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at the Workshop space. But with this beautifully wrought Miller play, he made a daring  decision to strip the piece down to its core and has produced a visceral version of this scary tale of a longshoreman working the docks in Red Hook Brooklyn, who is forced by circumstance to confront his obsession with his ward, his niece Catherine, a beautiful 18 year-old orphan whom he has looked after since her birth.

To bring full focus to the Miller text Van Hove has eliminated all reality in the setting. The story plays itself out in the crowded Carbone family apartment, and in its surrounding streets near the docks. Replacing the more conventional theatrical setting, this version unfolds inside a lucite boxing ring, in which furniture, fixtures, even doors are missing. The concept goes all the way down; all the characters play even without shoes. Background music is used to elevate the earthy story to the level of the mythic.

Russell Tovey (Rodolpho) and Mark Strong (Eddie). Photo by Jan Versweyveld.
Russell Tovey (Rodolpho) and Mark Strong (Eddie). Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

Mark Strong makes a vivid impression as Eddie Carbone, the patriarch who is terrified of losing his niece to a young cousin of his wife, an attractive blonde Sicilian who arrives with his brother to illegally stay in the Carbone apartment until they can earn money to send back home, where there are no jobs. He is strongly supported by Nicola Walker as his wife, by Phoebe Fox as his niece, and Russell Tovey as the catalyst from Sicily whose appearance brings the plot to a boil. Michael Gould, as his friend and attorney, offers useful comment as narrator. Tension builds throughout the 115 minute play, as it unwinds in one act, played without intermission.

“Absorbing” is too mild a word to describe our reaction to it. It’s an extraordinary achievement and remained fascinating as it reached its inevitable conclusion. There is one scene late in the play in which the director is anxious for us to realize the awkwardness in the household, and he uses a sound device combined with long pauses to achieve it. I regret that the word “artsy” crossed my mind, for it seemed we didn’t need the directorial touch to lend the scene what he wanted us to bring to it.I had completely bought into this bare-as-bones approach to a beautifully crafted script by an imaginative director and my thoughts on just these two bits of staging in no way diminished my enthusiasm for this remarkable achievement.

The audience, and that certainly included me, roared its approval when all was done. Any fan of live theatre who sees A View From the Bridge will remember it always.

Running Time: One hours and 55 minutes, with no intermission.

https://youtu.be/AGgq0CrAlOc

A View From the Bridge is playing through February 21, 2016 at The Lyceum Theatre –149 West 45th Street, in New York City. For tickets, buy them at the box office, call (212) 239-6200, or purchase them online.

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RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.

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