Growing up, it was all about The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. That’s one of the reasons it was such a pleasure to get to know A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s play about a Brooklyn-based, Italian-American longshoreman’s obsession with his niece and the codes and ethics of a close knit community in the 50s. Another pleasure, of course, was the all-star cast featuring perennial Top Five-ee Liev Schreiber and Broadway newcomer Scarlett Johansson. But we’ll get to that later.
This play is like taking a mirror to On the Waterfront — both protagonists rat, but with very different consequences — and many people think that Bridge was Miller’s response to Elia Kazan’s Waterfront, after that playwright chose to name Communist names before HUAC. Miller was also called before HUAC but refused to talk. Making this circle even more incestuous, Miller wrote the original screenplay for Waterfront, before the HUAC controversies led to a major falling out between these best friends.
The play is swift and climactic. The narration and plot build the action to the point that it’s impossible to not know that things aren’t heading down hill for Eddie Carbone and his family. Yet, I was enthralled and somehow still rooted for this fink — he of the “tunnel” vision (did Miller originate this phrase?) with a singular goal to stop his niece from marrying the illegal Italian immigrant who just wasn’t “right.”
I guess I wasn’t the only one rooting for him. Listen to how lawyer-come-narrator Alfieri closes the play: “Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was and his death useless, I tremble for, I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory–not purely good, but himself, purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients.”
I’ve seen Schreiber on stage as the sexy lover in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, playing the great villain Iago at the Joseph Papp production of Othello and starring in Talk Radio. He never, ever disappoints. I was very curious to see how Johansson — she of the low, raspy voice, sultry eyes and many times dead performances — would stack up.
Pretty well, I have to admit. For most of the play, her actions and words spoke innocence, but her body and dress spoke maturity and that delicate balance is crucial to the play’s tension. When she finally does break free from her uncle’s firm grasp, you may even believe that it has nothing to do with love for her illegal Marco, and everything to do with the fact that she’s never tasted air.
Posted by: Mariela