BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Smolders at The Grand Theatre

BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Smolders at The Grand Theatre

Following productions of "A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Glass Menagerie," "The Crucible," "Death of a Salesman" and "Our Town" at the Grand Theatre, Mark Fossen continues to show his nimble hand at directing the company's American Classic series with A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE.

While Arthur Miller's first version (the one-act "A Memory of Two Memories") was unsuccessful at its Broadway opening in 1955, the highly praised A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE revision premiered a year later. It wasn't until the 1997 Broadway staging that A VIEW received Tony, for Best Revival, and contemporary audiences will remember the 2010 production for Scarlett Johansson to be awarded her Tony for Best Actress; along with a stripped-down staging winning a 2015 Tony for Best Revival. (It's notable that the Sidney Lumet-directed 1962 "View du pont" adaptation was the first time on an American film screen two men kissing were seen; an unheralded LGBT landmark.)

The Grand's staging, with its expert lead performances, is magnificent. Audiences are emotionally wrought while also gratifyed for sharing in the tale of the self-imploding Brooklyn longshoreman at this community-theater staging.

In Fossen's notes (the notes from three additional writers are superfluous), the smoldering A VIEW remains relevant "with out current issues of illegal immigration, the #MeToo movement, and a growing awareness of how men behave with women and with each other." Problematic to not directly include all the play's undercurrent.

The performances of Jason Tatom as Eddie Carbone and McKenzie Steele Foster as the innocent Catherine -- his niece, who Eddie incestuously loves, leading to his destruction -- are astonishing. The pathos in Eddie's struggling wife, with a blind eye to his obsession, is deeply felt in Teresa Sanderson's performance.

Each actor fights against the Grand's notoriously inferior sound issues for plays in the huge theater.

Yet the actors, including the sturdy Aaron Adams as Marco and Rusty Bringhurst as Catherine's furious suitor (who threatens to "steal away" the 18-year-old from Eddie), impress with their characterizations as young Italian immigrants. Speaking directly to the audience as our one-man Greek chorus, David Hanson (also playing Alfierio, suggested by the lawyer Miller learned what was related as a true story) is most burdened by the audience audio, yet his portrayal is warm and engaging. Miller's closing speech for him remains muddled.

And the accents, with assistance from Stacey Jenson as dialect coach, are finely crafted with the range from Brooklynites to those not native born who struggle to find the right English words.

Criticism is in the sporadic lagging pace in the first act, too frequently observing daily family rituals, which has a very few interminable pauses. The "hairline fissures of unease" in the childless Carbone couple is not as easily observed. It's challenging if there's too much reliance on what one character describes as "nothing at all had really happened." Eddie's latent homosexuality I'd prefer more strongly hinted. Or did Miller intent that Eddie "does what he wants in bed" with his patient wife to be so obscured, to add to the shock that follows?

But the second act is more strongly realized, both in its writing and at this staging, and sizzles.

Missing my calling as a dramaturg, I enjoy doing research, too often (lazily) after the production, to more completely benefit from a work unfamiliar to me. And that's a rewarding aspect of a superb work.

Halee Rasmussen's set (largely, set pieces technically), with Maire Nelligan's properties design, adds to the story, with the stage wonderfully becoming increasingly claustrophobic as tensions increase. The intent of Spencer Brown's lighting design is clear, although some portions are not adequately illuminated. Shannon McCullock continues to be trapped like other budget-strapped costumers to show very little if any wear and tear in the wardrobe. Catherine's new dress should even subtly stand out, yet its color is nearly the only faded color observed.

The Grand's American Classic series is consistently rewarding and consistently attended. As a member of Utah's theater royalty, actress/educator Anne Decker, pointed out to me after A VIEW, it's sad that the cavernous size of the theater so strongly contributes to theatergoers' woes. This is most keenly felt when an otherwise sparkling production is hindered.

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From This Author Blair Howell

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