Most plays in theaters today are snappy, fast-faced reactions to the enveloping, careful productions of the mid-1900’s. They’re not stodgy, not slow. We recognize what they are telling us through shared shortcut symbolism. I appreciate their directness and focus on their themes.They reflect our times
But, seeing them had made me forget the rich language, dialog, characterization, and the details of everyday life in Arthur Miller at his best. And, this production of A View from the Bridge is two and a half hours of classic slice-of-life mid-Century tragedy. It’s a standout treat with story, meaning behind the story, and sympathetic flawed people behind the meaning of the story.
Five minutes into the play I had the first “Oh, my!” moment as I listened to the chatter on stage. It’d been a long while since I last heard the scene set so completely and yet naturally with words. The “Oh, my!”s continued throughout the show, as characters talked and did what you knew that had to. There were no surprises, yet no moments where the tension eased or my attention wandered.
Under the flawless direction of Libby Abbel, the actors provided the best work I’ve seen each of them in.
Armando Duran as Eddie (pictured at left with Stephanie Bertriz as Catherine) set the standard for the cast. His work was perfect, making his every speech a further deepening of the tragedy his character doesn’t see, doesn’t understand, and doesn’t control. Only Armando’s Eddie doesn’t perceive the dark path ahead. He so sympathetically played, the audience wants to stop the action and help.
Vilma Silva could read the phone book and make it sound profound. As Beatrice (Eddie’s wife) armed with Miller’s script, she’s at turns heartbreaking, practical, nurturing, and firm. As the mother figure on stage, Silva would be the standout star of a lesser production. Here she was a credible co-star in a very bright galaxy.
In her Ashland debut, Stephanie Beatriz (Catherine) is a perfect growing up young woman. Her speech pattern and body movements mature in sync with Miller’s text. Beatriz moves from simply bouncy perky to more self-aware and testing without a change of costume or external prop. Her rhythms are in tune with the play.
Juan Rivera LeBron breaks the mold of his prior OSF characters and makes his Rodolpho (cousin of Beatrice and developing love object for Catherine) a credible, sincere suitor. He plays the role straight, and there’s clear chemistry between him and Catherine. LeBron works well when he steps away from his typical comic relief or loyal servant type castings.
Perhaps my biggest surprise was Tony DeBruno as Mr. Alfieri, the lawyer. As the narrator/Greek chorus, DeBruno is low key and insightful. He sets the stage without chewing it. I am used to seeing DeBruno specialize in bluster while his eyes broadcast disinterest. Libby brought him into this play, and he stays focused as the audience’s friend.
A second Ashland rookie, David DeSantos, delivers a very nice performance by carefully underplaying Marco, another cousin of Catherine. Strong and without wasted movements, he adds to the family drama without scene stealing or overdoing.
The set by William Bloodgood was both innovative and comfortable. The New York street backdrop felt just right, especially the balconies and stoops. And, having the living room thrust out into the audience worked both for physical and symbolic viewing.
Deb Dryden’s costumes were excellent period pieces and coherent statements of the characters. They were noticeable as additions and not distractions.
Of course, the political and social themes appeal to my taste in theater. A good story with social content = great play. OSF’s production of A View from the Bridge makes the most of this classic work and delivers a few hours of great theater.