Sunday, February 25, 2024

A View From the Bridge - Long Wharf Theater

Gut-wrenching was my first thought as I walked from the Canal Dock Boathouse, the site-specific locale for Long Theater’s outstanding production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, playing through March 10The play is brimming with emotional intricacies, cast with an impressive group of actors, and skillfully directed by James Dean Palmer.
The setting is the Brooklyn waterfront.  The indoor performance space Long Wharf has created is a small, raked theater that overlooks the New Haven harbor.  Floor-to-ceiling windows behind You-Shin Chen’s minimally designed, but highly effective set, provides a panoramic perspective of the waterway, with large boats moored on the far bank, smaller crafts sailing past, and seagulls darting in and out of sight.  The scenic design extends to an outdoor wraparound balcony, adorned with nautical detritus, where some scenes, including the show’s climatic finale, take place.
A View From the Bridge focuses on Eddie Carbone (Dominic Fumusa), a longshoreman; his wife, Beatrice (Annie Parisse) and their 18-year-old niece Catherine (Paten Hughes), who lives with the couple.  Their domestic life is humble and unassuming until the arrival of brothers, distant cousins, from Italy.  They have been smuggled into the country illegally so they can find work and better their lives.  Marco (Antonio Magro), older than his sibling with a family to support in his homeland and Rodolpho (Mark Junek) are all too eager to make their way.  However, when the younger brother and Catherine begin a romance, Eddie’s inward feelings towards his niece take an ominous turn, which becomes the catalyst to a sorrowful and heartbreaking conclusion.
Arthur Miller, one of the giants of the American Theater, has fashioned a captivating play full of conflicting emotions, deeply complicated and flawed characters.  He effectively injects age-old themes of family and honor into the show.  With the debate about illegal immigration in today’s world, his insertion of the topic into the storyline gives the plot a contemporary feel.  The overall structure of the work is deeply gratifying – a two-act show that slowly builds into a stunning crescendo.  It’s hard to find modern-day shows that are so well constructed and satisfying.
James Dean Palmer’s superior direction focuses on the characters and their actions.  He emphasizes small, yet important details such as facial ticks and body language to develop fully drawn portrayals.  There is a playfulness to the production, but he slowly teases out the underlining tension and threatening nature of the play.  He artfully incorporates both staging areas, producing a fully realized, out-of-the-box experience.
The cast is first-rate, led by Dominio Fumusa as Eddie, a man whose world slowly spins out of control.  He brings a complexity, honesty, and raw energy to the role.  You feel for him as well as fear him.  Annie Parisse is exquisite as Beatrice, a woman tightly wound with frustration and unhappiness with her life.  Paten Hughes gives a decidedly deceptive portrayal of Catherine.  At first na├»ve and unfulfilled, she blossoms into a young woman who knows who she is and what she wants from the world.  Mark Junek’s portrayal of the fun-loving Rodolpho adds a humorous respite from friction felt in the household.  Antonio Magro brings a more subdued presence to the role of Marco.  Patricia Black offers a muted performance as the lawyer and sometime narrator, Alfieri.
A View From the Bridge, one of the prominent productions of the current Connecticut theater season.  A show not to be missed.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.


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