This must be what Greek tragedy once felt like, when people went to the theater in search of catharsis. Ivo van Hove's magnificent reconception ofArthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge," which opened on Thursday night at the Lyceum Theater, takes you into extreme emotional territory that you seldom dare visit in daily life. At the end of its uninterrupted two hours, you are wrung out, scooped out and so exhausted that you're wide awake. You also feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the terrible events you just saw.
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Broadway Reviews
Reviews of A View from the Bridge on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for A View from the Bridge including the New York Times and More...
Shatteringly tough revivals such as A View from the Bridge can inspire dueling emotions. First, obviously, there's immense satisfaction and gratitude that Belgian director Ivo van Hove digs down and grabs the pulsing, bloody heart of Arthur Miller's 1956 drama...But then comes anger that similarly audacious visions of the classics are so rare...The head that throbs the hardest is bullet-clean and belongs to Mark Strong, who gives a performance of harrowing intensity as doomed Eddie Carbone...Van Hove stages this elegant and lean tale with almost perverse understatement...Earlier I promised angry words about New York's "classics problem"...Our directors need to study how [van Hove] strips away anything inessential to the text and lasers in on breathing, moving bodies in space.
If you think you've seen Arthur Miller's dark classic "A View From the Bridge" enough times, think again. The muscular production that opened Thursday night at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre is a stunning, imaginative theatrical experience, an impassioned interpretation that really brings the heat to Miller's gripping drama...van Hove has stripped it down to a stark set that resembles a boxing ring. During nearly two tense hours without intermission, the barefoot cast members warily circle one another under bright lights, while a dissonant soundtrack increases the tension and unease. Anti-hero Eddie Carbone is embodied with driven intensity by hawk-browed Mark Strong, also making his Broadway debut. Strong is a brooding, glowering force as the flawed longshoreman...Eventually all the actors enfold one another in a haunting, anguished tableau, a brilliant visual summation by van Hove of how people in this close-knit community must stand or fall together.
The latest revival of "A View From the Bridge" -- the Arthur Miller play is having its third Broadway outing in 18 years -- will be noted for its stark set, ghostly sound effects and mesmerizing performance by Mark Strong, as the conflicted Italian-American longshoreman Eddie Carbone..."Bridge" steadily builds anxiety, because of its performances, surely, but also due to a ceaseless humming that reminds you of being at the movies when a subway passes nearby ... though here, the rumbling never stops...This production hangs on the performance by Strong, who acts with his entire lanky body and nimbly moves between rationality and psychosis. Is he in control of his incestuous feelings, or do they control him?
The white-hot director Ivo van Hove is not the first to embrace the passionate smolder behind Arthur Miller's 1955 play of forbidden passion in Italian-American Brooklyn...But it is hard to recall another staged production -- beyond this exquisitely profound Broadway import from London's Young Vic Theatre Company starring Mark Strong, Nicola Walker and Phoebe Fox -- that has depicted with such complexity and intensity what Eddie and his niece actually had together, before his infuriatingly effeminate usurper Rodolpho arrives, illegally, from the motherland...this is the very rare production that matches the complexity of the text, with its mixed-messaged collision of the cerebral and the sensual, a dichotomy at the heart of everything Miller ever wrote...Van Hove's brilliance is multifaceted, but much rests on his ability to focus the mind and soul on a work's tiny moments.
Van Hove knows what he's doing, all right. Where I've often thought the playwrights he's toyed with would greatly disapprove of the toying, I suspect that were Miller to have seen this treatment, he would've applauded. As the actors aren't being asked to underline subtexts along with the text, they're free to play Miller's script to the utmost.
And just like that, Ivo van Hove cements his place irrefutably among the most revolutionary theater makers of our time. Because in its elemental economy, its flashes of uncanny insight, his revival of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge," from London's Young Vic, is simply staggering. The story of Eddie Carbone, the proud Brooklyn longshoreman who implodes under the pressure of urges he cannot comprehend, barrels to a finish here with all of the disorienting impact of a high-velocity collision. As a result, Broadway's Lyceum Theatre, where the production had its official opening Thursday night, is a required destination for any pilgrim whose object of worship is serious drama.
Van Hove is highly dramatic, but he isn't always very subtle. Some of the performances, though, are both. Strong turns Eddie's tragedy into an utter inability and unwillingness to understand his own motives, even when he turns Rodolpho and his friend Marco (Michael Zegan) over to the immigration authorities to have them deported back to Sicily.
In a bright stroke, the director dreams up a wordless prologue. Eddie and coworker Alfieri (Michael Gould) wash up after a day on the docks. But the point of the drama is that nobody comes out clean. "Whatever happened," says Bea, "we all done it." Van Hove sees to it that everyone's dripping in guilt.
Generally, though, the performances are powerful -- Michael Gould's gritty, heartfelt take on Alfieri, a local lawyer who predicts Eddie's doom, is another standout -- and van Hove holds us rapt throughout, even when his flourishes feel overstated. While Miller's dialogue hardly requires such added fuss, the director should be commended for offering a fresh take that sacrifices none of its sting.
The direction seems to greatly favor those seated on stage, and while Strong is admirably forceful, there seems to be a lack of subtlety that the director imposes throughout evening. Rather than let Eddie's desires slowly reveal themselves, he smacks us on the head with them. Also smacking the audience are the bombastic tones of designer Tom Gibbons' lugubrious soundscape, which is peppered with bits of Fauré's Requiem. Miller's fine play would be better served by allowing the actors to provide such subtext.
The actors walk around barefoot for no apparent reason, accompanied by snippets of the Fauré Requiem that are played on an endless loop, with a drum tapping at maddeningly metronomic intervals to signify...what? Only, it seems, that Mr. Van Hove is so determined to put his personal stamp on "A View From the Bridge" that he doesn't seem to care whether any of his over-familiar avant-garde tricks are organically related to the script. Instead, they're poured over it like a rancid sauce. What I find most puzzling about Mr. Van Hove's method is that when you scrape away the sauce of self-regard, what you find underneath...is a staging that gets to the point of Miller's play with near-naturalistic directness. Not only does he move actors around fluidly, but he also knows how to pick them: Mark Strong is simple and forceful as Eddie Carbone...Unfortunately, [Van Hove] neither trusts them nor the play, which is pretentious in its own way...but can be shatteringly effective when done well.
I have to admit I'm of two minds about Van Hove's A View From the Bridge. My 30-year-old critic self probably would have thrilled to the ballsiness of turning a naturalistic melodrama into a Greek tragedy. Doing so adds a layer of meaning the way the cover of Abbey Road added a layer of meaning to the Beatles mythology. But my older-critic self says, "Leave the damned play alone." Leave us to draw the connection from Eddie Carbone to Willie Loman (Death Of A Salesman) and Joe Keller (All My Sons) - men whose sense of their own manhood cannot survive the emasculating pressures of making it in America. In the end, Eddie impotently demands his "respect" - even though he's committed the ultimate crime of ratting out his countrymen to Immigration. Even sexual congress with Catherine would have been more forgivable than that. Eddie's tragedy, like Willy's and Joe's, is that he is no hero at all, but a victim not only of his own tortured desire (perhaps it's Rodolpho he really wants?) but of his inability to gain entree to that American Dream he's been sold on.
What makes this slight misfit of play and production finally unimportant is that the actors are so devastatingly good. Their habit of fealty to character as defined by dialogue survives the director's effacements. Mark Strong may be styled to look like a neutral Everyman of the past or future, but, in his bearing and cadence and anguish and bafflement, he is only Red Hook's Eddie Carbone, in full tragic tilt. Phoebe Fox makes Catherine's transition from baby doll to furious womanhood thrillingly transparent, just as Nicola Walker, as Eddie's wife, Beatrice, shows how every hopeful choice she and Eddie have made now closes in on her like a trap. (For once, Beatrice and Catherine actually look like aunt and niece.) The Italian brothers, Marco (Michael Zegen) and Rodolpho (Russell Tovey), are both excellent in difficult roles, and Michael Gould makes of Alfieri the perfectly regretful guide. Some of the credit for the cast's superb work obviously belongs to van Hove; he knew he needed actors who could stand up to his powerful, showy interventions. It's a fair trade; those interventions probably made this revival viable. Still, one looks on them, and on van Hove's upcoming Broadway production of The Crucible with, as Alfieri says, "a certain alarm."
...Ivo van Hove...presents this "View" in a square space framed by a low wall of plexiglass, with audience members on rafters on either side of the stage. There are no props, and curiously the actors wear no shoes. Lending to the strange, anxious atmosphere is an underscore of murmurous music that is heard throughout the show. The result is alternately powerful and a wee bit ridiculous. The power comes mostly courtesy of an astonishing lead performance by British actor Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes," "The Imitation Game"), who takes a nearly impossible-to-play character...and transforms him into a viscerally flesh-and-blood, palpably tortured figure...Alas, this "A View from the Bridge"...doesn't quite cohere...a touch more humor and humility might have gone a very long way. It's one thing to serve up something strange and dark and unexpected; it's another thing entirely to be so deadly "serious" and "intense" that you risk devolving into self-parody.
Hove takes a scalpel-edged, stripped-down yet over-the-top approach that drains the play of its naturalistic flavor...But what really hurts the two-hour production is Hove's never-ending use of an unsettling, dirge-like soundscape, which interrupts the dialogue and is often disconnected from the storytelling. It is most effective at the play's brutal climax, which also contains a splashy visual feat. Mark Strong conveys Eddie's inner torment with a quiet intensity...For the record, this production received big raves in London, and I'm sure that many people here will be similarly turned on by it. But by the same token, I suspect that plenty of others will find it pretentious and obnoxious.