A View from The Bridge
Mad Cow Theatre
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Tony Simotes
Starring Brian Brightman, Rachel Comeau, and Sara Oliva
America – a land of negotiable morality. In post war New York the docks are active, the economy is booming, and Europe is filled with desperate poor people we don’t want over here. At least not officially; but Eddie (Brightman) isn’t opposed to housing a few Italian refugees hoping to feed their families in Sicily. It’s a common side business; Marco (Stephen Lima) and Rodolpho (Robert Johnston) work the docks and save their dollars. Well, Marco saves for his starving children, but Rodolpho is determined to become an American. He buys clothes and records and dates Beatrice (Oliva), Eddie’s orphaned niece. This upsets Eddie; he’s protective to the point of creepy. His wife Beatrice defends Catherine, but Eddie continues his decent into madness as the world refuses to bend to his will. Jealousy leads him to rat on the house guests, and when he fights Marco, we see the American Dream’s dark side.
At a bit over two hours this is a long show, but never a slow one. Brightman offers focused intensity, and his wiry build makes him look like a scrapper who gets no trouble at work. Beatrice frets and fusses, but she’s the strong woman needed to balance her husband’s worst urges. The protectiveness Eddie extends over Catherine serves two purposes: he’s freezing time to fend off his own mortality, and he idolizes her purity, even as she’s way across the line of offering herself up to someone else. A narrative commentary comes from lawyer and my favorite fireplug of an actor Glen Glover; he narrates to us and explains to Eddie why the world can’t be just as Eddie demands. Lima gets to do the two things he excels at: he’s both a giant teddy bear of niceness, and seriously scary fighter when he’s not. And the couple of Catherine and Rodolpho shoot sparks as the romantic leads; they both seem as if they are destined for a few years of bliss and then a steady diet of constant arguments. They may all be stereotypes on this stage, but they are nuanced ones.
Kudos to scenic design Lisa Buck and her crew for the dark and mysterious set. Midcentury beams fly up into the rafters, no fishing is allowed on set, and a heavy mist left over from a Tennessee Williams production fills the air. The casual criminality of the play contrasts with the intense internal value structure each actor carries. Here, as always, the wants and needs of a greater society subvert to the petty needs of the individual. Author Miller delights in this underbelly of New World prosperity, and his players are easy to identify with. This is a meaty drama, done well.