November 16, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
A fresh interpretation of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge streaked across the stage like a fireball at the Eisenhower Theatre last night. Credit Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter who has endeavored mightily to give us contemporary productions, edgy, young musicians, playwrights, hip hop artists, and an exciting group of artistic directors. Produced by the prestigious Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and directed by Ivo Van Hove, this avant-garde production won the Tony Award this year for “Best Revival of a Play”. And it’s no surprise. This one has muscle and bone.
Set in Red Hook a rough neighborhood with a view to the Brooklyn Bridge, the story is told by Alfieri (Thomas Jay Ryan), a local lawyer. (Miller claimed it was true, as told to him by a lawyer who represented longshoremen). Alfieri acts as witness, arbitrator and conscience to Italian-American longshoreman, Eddie Carbone (Frederick Weller). Eddie still operates under the code of omertà, or silence, and the unimpeachable honor code of rispetto, spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Ignore that and you’re six feet under.
In the dramatic opening scene two men, drenched in blood red lighting and a rising mist, are putting on their clothes as Alfieri begins his narration. It is immediately reminiscent of the intense boxing series’ paintings by American Realist George Bellows, and lends a foreboding of dark and murderous things to come. Designer Jan Versweyveld, who won two Tony Awards this year for “Best Scenic Design of a Play” and “Best Lighting Design of a Play” for this production, gives us a stripped down set framed out by glass panels topped by benches, all the better to home in on the characters’ body language and the raw power of Miller’s words.
Eddie is old school Sicilian married to Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) the family mediator. Together they raise his orphaned niece, Catherine (Catherine Combs), a teenager looking to spread her wings, but still a “baby” to her Uncle Eddie. When Beatrice’s cousins, Marco (Alex Esola) and Rodolpho (Dave Register), arrive in the country to work illegally, they live on the QT with the couple, getting longshoreman jobs through the local Mafia. Trouble comes when Rodolpho and Catherine fall in love and Eddie’s unsubstantiated fears surface, threatening the couple’s marriage plans. He accuses Rodolpho of wanting to marry her to get his citizenship, or, perhaps worse to Eddie, that he prefers men.
Two devices are used here to great effect. The haunting overlay of sacred Medieval music lends context and heft to the drama and a series of slow drumbeats between lines emphasizes the searing conflict between the family members.
What is surprising, however, is Van Hove’s decision not to use regional accents of any kind. So don’t expect Italian accents from the immigrant cousins, or Brooklynese from Catherine, Eddie or his friend, Louis (Howard W. Overshown), even though they speak in the language of dese-dems-and-dose with the occasional ain’t. The focus here is on the dialogue and the story. The cast is just the vehicle, but a fine, well-honed vehicle they are.
Through Saturday, December 3rd at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.