Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Great Full-Bodied Revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge
Originally, A View from the Bridge was an one act play along with another Miller piece called Memories of Two Mondays. It opened on Broadway in 1955 with Van Heflin as Eddie and Eileen Heckart as his wife Beatrice. The cast also included J. Carroll Nash, Russell Collins and Jack Warden. It received poor reviews and ran only 149 performances at the Coronet Theatre. The play was based on an actual longshoreman who ratted to the immigration authorities on one of his own relatives who was in this country working illegally. He was attempting to prevent the marriage between one of the brothers and his niece. The rat was scorned and ostracized in the community and soon disappeared. Miller wanted to write the play with a single arc instead of three acts and wanted to pattern it after the one act Greek plays which had continuous action.
Two years later, the playwright revised the script, having since found an emotional connection with the work after being branded a Communist sympathizer by Senator McCarthy. The play became the two-act drama that we now see. It premiered in London and received great reviews.
Sidney Lumet directed a film of the play and it was called Vu du Pont and filmed in Rome because of the McCarthy committee. Raf Vallone and Jean Sorel played Eddie and Rodolpho, and a young Carol Lawrence appeared as Rodolpho's fiancée. Barry Levinson is currently in pre-production of a new film adaptation that will star Anthony LaPaglia, who starred in the 1997 Roundabout revival, as Eddie, Frances McDormand as his wife and Scarlett Johansson as the fiancée. An opera version, composed by William Balcom and Arnold Weinstein, premiered in 1999 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie (Scott Agar Jaicks) is a hardworking, good man who has one big blemish - he loves his 17-year-old niece by marriage, Catherine (Caitlyn Louchard). Eddie and his wife Beatrice (Ann Hopkins) have raised the girl and Eddie is extremely protective of her. One gets the idea that he loves the teenager just a little too much.
Eddie's anxiety begins when two cousins from Sicily, Rodolpho (Daniel Hart Donoghue) and Marco (Randy Sawyer), enter the country illegally to work the docks in Brooklyn. Rodolpho is a good looking, young blond and takes an interest in Catherine. Rumors start that the flamboyant young man is homosexual and wants to marry Catherine just for a green card.
Eddie believes that Rodolpho is "not right" since he sings, cooks and sews a dress for Catherine. His hair even looks bleached and the longshoremen call him "Paper Doll," since he sings the song all the time. Eddie tests the young man's masculinity by trying to give him boxing lesions and ends up kissing the man on the mouth. One even gets the idea that Eddie is a repressed homosexual since we have learned that Eddie and his wife have not had sex for months. McCarthyism comes into play when Eddie resorts to breaking a Sicilian code by ratting on Rodolpho to the authorities. Eddie's treachery leads to the standard ancient Greek ending.
Director Jennifer Welch has assembled a cast of excellent actors for this piece. Scott Agar Jaicks is very convincing as Eddie. He has a great Brooklyn accent and does wonders with his facial expressions. He tends to rant and rave a lot, especially in the last scenes of the second act. Ann Hopkins is perfect in her understated performance as Eddie's wife. She adds straightforward emotion to what is happening in each scene.
Caitlyn Louchard moves with great effectiveness from adolescence into adulthood as she secures her independence from the domineering uncle. She is a natural performer and does not give way to hysterics. Daniel Hart Donoghue is very good as Rodolpho, and he displays just the right amount of Sicilian characteristics. His portrayal is more fun loving and jovial than flamboyant. You never get the idea that he wants to marry Catherine for a green card. Randy Sawyer is excellent as the hardworking Marco and he comes into his own toward the end of the play with his anger against Eddie. Ian Hirsch is very good as narrator and the lawyer, Alfieri.
Biz Duncan has devised a very nice set on the small band box stage with two levels showing Eddie and Beatice's home. Costumes by James Baldock give you a typical lower middle class look that was prevalent in the 1950s. Jennifer Welch's direction is taut and well directed.
View from the Bridge has been extended to March 19th at the Actor Theatre of San Francisco, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-296-9179 or visit www.actorstheatresf.org. Their next production is Crimes of the Heart.