BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Tuesday 16th July 2019.It has been quite a while since Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge was last been seen in Adelaide, so the State Theatre Company of South Australia's production, brilliantly directed by Kate Champion, is a welcome revisiting to this American classic which is based on a true story that was told to Miller. The play is set in Red Hook, a working-class Italian-American community in Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn Bridge referenced in the title. It takes place in the 1950s, a time of great post-war prosperity in America, and poverty in Italy. Longshoreman, Eddie Carbone, is visited by Marco and Rodolpho, illegal immigrants, referred to as 'submarines' from Sicily. They are his wife's cousins, and they want him to hide them from the authorities and help them get work on the docks. Their arrival triggers a series of events that will change the lives of all of them. Rodolpho, whom Eddie insinuates is a homosexual, proposes to Catherine, the niece of Eddie's wife, Beatrice. Catherine is young and Eddie has a suppressed incestuous lust for her. She, being only seventeen, adds another dimension to Eddie's attentions, his insistence that she not wear short skirts and high-heeled shoes, a sign of her growing up, being significant. He also opposes her intent to take a job as a stenographer for a plumbing company, coming up with numerous pathetic excuses and trying to pressure her into remaining at her studies. Beatrice, however, is aware of Eddie's inappropriate interest and sides with Catherine. A modern Greek tragedy, the story is told by Alfieri, a lawyer, acting as both narrator and chorus. For the benefit of Australian readers, a longshoreman is what we would call a dockworker, or 'wharfie', also known as a stevedore. They are the people who load and unload the ships. The introduction of shipping containers in the 1950s decimated their numbers. The performance opens spectacularly, with the longshoremen unloading a ship, ropes lowering framework boxes of various sizes and shapes into place, forming Victoria Lamb's set that will become the docks, Eddie's home, Alfieri's office, and the rest of the locations, through a combination of her implied intent and our imaginations, aided by the lighting created by Chris Petridis. Jason Sweeney's soundtrack adds much to the production.Mark Saturno plays Eddie, a petty domestic tyrant who thinks that respect is something that he can demand, and that, as the breadwinner and the man at the head of the family, he is entitled to have total control over every aspect of the lives of his wife and her niece, whom they have raised like a daughter after the death of her parents. Saturno is superb as the narrow-minded bigot and control freak, filling his character with growing anger and frustration as he gradually loses his hold on the two women, and his world crumbles around him. Elena Carapetis excels herself as Beatrice in her finest performance to date, exhibiting great subtlety, and a deep understanding of her character. Carapetis gives us a complex, multifaceted character, a woman who has accepted her lot but finds the inner strength to rebel on the part of her niece, to stand up to her domineering husband, and face his lack of integrity with patience and resilience. It is a remarkable performance. Maiah Stewardson gives a third excellent performance as Catherine, initially naïve and playing the child-like role that Eddie has imposed on her, and then, possibly because of him rather than in spite of him, growing into a woman and accepting her new role as Rodolpho's future wife. Stewardson conveys all of the mixed emotions involved in the transition, with great conviction. Antoine Jelk plays Rodolpho as a happy-go-lucky young man, hoping to live the American dream and enjoying his newfound affluence. Jelk is another whose character changes extensively over the course of the play, and who bears the brunt of Eddie's fury and violent outbursts. His portrayal is a rich exploration of the role. Bill Allert brings a sympathetic tone to the character, Alfieri, whose attempts to dissuade Eddie end in failure. Alfieri sees that Eddie's demise is due to himself and that it is inevitable, unavoidable. Allert has his Alfieri resigned to Eddie's fate, but saddened by it. Dale March's Marco is the strong silent type, taking no nonsense from Eddie and even putting him in his place in a test of strength. March gives a powerful performance in the role. Chris Asimos and Brett Archer play Louis and Mike, co-workers of Eddie, as well as some minor roles, as convincingly as those in the main roles. If this is an example of what we can expect under State Theatre's new Artistic Director, Mitchell Butel, we are in for some great nights in the theatre. Photography, Kate Pardey.