Thursday, January 28, 2010

A View From the Bridge

When I first saw Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge more than 30 years ago at Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE, I was thoroughly involved and left feeling deeply moved. Unfortunately, my experience of director Gregory Mosher's Broadway revival now at the Cort Theatre was vastly different.

Set on the 1950s Brooklyn waterfront, Bridge is the story of an Italian-American family headed by Eddie Carbone (Liev Schreiber, in photo center), a longshoreman who secrets lusts for Catherine (Scarlett Johansson in her Broadway debut, left), the orphaned niece he and his long-suffering wife, Beatrice (Jessica Hecht) have raised. Against that backdrop a second tale about undocumented immigrants trying to better their lives in America plays out.

Miller, a great lover of Greek tragedy, used that form as a model for Bridge, meaning the ending is inevitable early on. Getting there, though, should arouse enough passion to draw the audience in, but this cast seemed to be giving a first reading rather than a full performance. I felt no chemistry between Eddie and Catherine or between Catherine and Rodolpho (Morgan Spector, right), a newly arrived immigrant to whom she becomes engaged, setting the stage for Eddie’s fatal jealousy. All of the elements of Aristotle’s definition of tragedy are there -- an imitation of an action that is of certain magnitude, that through various literary devices is told in action, not narration -- except for the final one -- “through pity and fear causing a catharsis of emotions.” My primary emotion was of boredom, especially in the first act. A couple of sparks ignited in the second act, thank God, but not enough to make me care about these people. Too bad, because I certainly did when I saw the play at CENTERSTAGE.

I also had trouble with this cast in other ways. When they sat down to dinner and blessed themselves, I was jarred and thought, “Oh, that’s right. They’re supposed to be Catholic.” With their gestures and speech patterns I felt they were more like the Lomans, Brooklyn Jews. They didn’t come off as Catholic or Italian. When I mentioned this later to my friend Mary she joked that maybe they converted.

John Lee Beatty’s revolving sets -- dreary brick tenements and Eddie’s small apartment -- and Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting serve well the dark, brooding atmosphere of the script.

The inspiration for Bridge came to Miller after he heard a similar story while doing research for a screenplay on the Brooklyn waterfront in 1947. Eight years later -- in 10 days -- he turned a version of it into a short play and paired it with A Memory of Two Mondays for a Broadway run. He went on to expand it a decade later for an Off-Broadway production with Robert Duvall as Eddie.

Tickets for A View From the Bridge, which is playing a limited 14-week engagement, are available through, (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250, online at, or at the box office, 138 W. 48th St.

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