There is nothing quite like the eternal battle between obsession and fear of obsession has rarely gotten such an intense look as in Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge.”
And there is nothing quite like the searing production of this classic that opened over the weekend at American Players Theatre in Spring Green.
Under the precise and unrestrained direction of Tim Ocel, a cast of actors tells a story so painful and complex that it demands attention and stamina, watching a man’s gradual descent into the darkest and most fearsome place in his heart.
Eddie Carbone (Jim DeVita) is a longshoreman on the docks in Brooklyn. He’s married to Beatrice (Colleen Madden) and they have adopted her niece, Catherine (Melisa Pereyra) whose parents were killed in an accident,
From the earliest moments, the relationship between the three raises warning flags that all is not healthy. Catherine, a young woman of serious beauty, acts as a child to Eddie, bringing him his beers, rubbing his shoulders, settling on his lap after his arrival home from a tough day on the docks.
Eddie is overbearing with his niece, firm in his guidance that she finish school, stay away from boys, and to “be with a different kind of people.” With his obvious connection with Catherine it also becomes clear that there are cracks in the marriage of Eddie and Beatrice.
They have not had sex for three months and he refuses to discuss the reasons why he’s become so distant. Beatrice urges him to loosen his strings on Catherine, suspecting that his infatuation has a bearing on his love for his wife.
Enter into this combustible mix two of Beatrice’s cousins, Marco (Casey Hoekstra) and Rudolpho (Will Mobley), illegal immigrants from Italy, who move into the the house with the others. Marco is a husband and father, leaving his family at home. Rudolpho is everything Eddie isn’t – single, blonde, artistic and, most especially, free to be attractive to and attracted by Catherine.
Mr. DeVita, who grew up on fishing boats on Long Island, absolutely smolders as his desperation about the relationship grows. He seeks legal advice from Alfieri (Brian Mani), claiming “he ain’t right,” his certainty that Rudolpho may be gay and attracted to Catherine only as a way to get his citizenship.
Mr. Mani also acts as the narrator of this journey, describing Eddies, “he was as good a man as he had to be.”
Eddie tries everything to kill the budding love affair, from the getting legal advice to using a boxing lesson to hurt Rudolpho. Nothing works, however, and he finally resorts to an anonymous call to the Immigration Service, to report the presence of Marco and Rodolpho, hoping for an arrest and deportation.
The story comes to a tragic end with a fight between Eddie and Marco, a battle that ends with Eddie dying by his very own knife.
This cast of actors deliver the kind of performances that have created the mystique of the outdoor theater in the hills of Tower State Park. It’s a performance of power, grace and intelligence.
Mr. DeVita delivers a craftily etched performance that provides a window into the conflict and guilt that lurk beneath his machismo and demanding personality. He is a marvel to behold each time he takes the stage and, like Michael Jordan in basketball, makes the players around him better,
Ms. Madden wears beleaguered and ignored with subtle display and in her every movement. She never takes an action without having a reason for it and she wears her sorrow on her face and her plea for a place in life in every word she utters.
Ms. Preyra is a continuing marvel to behold torn in all directions. She is the affectionate child to Eddie, the teenager on the verge of womanhood, the loyal niece to Beatrice and lover hoping for validation and peace.
Mr. Hoekstra and Mr. Mobley each span a wide gamut of emotion and expression. From the dreamers who arrive from Italy to the disappointed who find that life is a constant struggle, each actor had an intensity and transparent variety that left no doubt as to what was roiling in their lives.
A special mention must go to fight choreographer Brian Byrnes. The final fight between Eddie and Marco is fierce and as realistic as any fight you may ever see on a stage.
This production is a rare event in the world of theater. It marries a glorious space with a glorious play and a glorious team of designers and actors.
What a way to spend a glorious summer evening.
Production credits: Director, Tim Ocel; Assistant Director, Christine Weber, Voice & Text Coach, Sara Becker; Costume Design, Holly Payne; Scenic Design, Takeshi Kata; Lighting Design, Jesse Klug; Sound Design & Original Music; Gregg Coffin; Fight Director, Brian Byrnes; Stage Manager, Rebecca Lindsey.
Cast: Kipp Moorman, Tim Gittings, Brian Mani, Jim DeVita, Melisa Pereyra, Colleen Madden, Danny Martinez, Casey Hoekstra, Will Mobley, Robert R. Doyle, Josh Krause.