The State Theatre Company’s new production of Arthur Miller’s classic, A View From A Bridge, is a guilty pleasure for theatre goers.
A View From The Bridge is a tale told in the intense, claustrophobic style of theatre that forces vibrant characters together in a small space so we can watch the chemistry and reactions work their magic.
Arthur Miller’s exploration of family and honour culture opens with Italian American lawyer, Alfieri (Bill Allert), striding across the stage (which Victoria Lamb has deftly crafted into a wharf, complete with ropes, steel framework, and pulleys system) to lament a case in which all is hopeless.
As soon as he opens his mouth, his New York accent transports us to 1950s Brooklyn, and there we stay, with secure suspension of disbelief until the final curtain snaps us back into 2019 Adelaide.
The story revolves around two Italian migrants, Marco and Rodolpho, who arrive on the doorstep of earnest harbour worker, Eddie Carbone, where he lives with his wife, Beatrice, and niece, Catherine.
It doesn’t take long until we see cracks appear in the proud, upright, Eddie Carbone (Mark Saturno), as he needs to come to grips with his beloved niece (a surrogate daughter) blossoming into adulthood and yearning to leave school to enter the workforce. We sense his fear of loss and his fear of all the “bad things” that could happen to his innocent “child”. But when is such despair healthy and when is it displaced? This is the first of many questions that ripen on the vine of this sinewy, sprawling, evergreen play.
All Eddie wants is respect but when one of his “guests” from the home country, Rodolpho, falls in love with his niece, that’s when his perspective on relationships and family and love hurtle out of control.
Antoine Jelk’s Rodolpho is blonde, effeminate, talented in singing, sewing and making people laugh, and this bevvy of skills and proximity to Catherine, transforms Eddie’s inner world into a tinder box.
By the end of act one, the set of A View From The Bridge has been transformed into a cauldron of domestic tension and towards the end of act two the lid blows and many characters become broken at once, with one fatally.
We can see this coming from the start, we can size up the situation in an instant, and yet, this solid cast (there is not a weakness to be found) and Kate Champion’s direction draw us so deeply into the turmoil that there is a collective awakening, as if from a dream, across scores of seats in the Dunstan Playhouse.
This is gritty drama with plenty of fodder for self reflection.
As a father of young daughters, I despised Eddie’s over bearing interference into his niece’s world, whereas my fellow reviewer applauded the interest and involvement he showed in her welfare. And that’s the marvel of this play. Eddie and many of the characters are rough diamonds. They are precious, they have value, but their many facets are rough and haphazardly formed.
While there is some lavishness and exuberance in this show (the intricate set is only partially exploited and the choreographed montage of elapsed time and relationship changes towards the end of act one was a prolonged indulgence), this production earns from us, without asking, what Eddie constantly demands from his fellow characters, respect. Bravo. This is a solid and rewarding night of theatre.
PS And magnificent projection on the part of the players. Unlike my fellow critics Peter Goers and Samela Harris who are against actors with microphones, I am for it because I have struggled to hear much dialogue in the Dunstan Playhouse this year. However, this cast shows projection is possible. One wonders out loud, no pun intended, if the positioning of the players downstage for much of the play was of great assistance to this end? Again, bravo, on behalf of theatre goers who relish dialogue!