BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at UCSB Department Of Theater And Dance

BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at UCSB Department Of Theater And Dance
Photo: David Bazemore

The UCSB Theatre Department opens the 2017/2018 season with two potent tragedies (both directed by Irwin Appel) running in rep: Naked Shakes's King Lear (with the talented Brian Harwell as the existentially baffled king lost in the woods) and Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge. Though Shakespeare and Miller wrote their plays several centuries apart, the combo is fitting--both plays articulate the struggles of frustrated protagonists trying to understand their function in a shifting social scape and their priorities within dysfunctional familial relationships.

A View from the Bridge follows longshoreman Eddie (Jason Bowe) in the Italian-American neighborhood of Red Hook in post-war Brooklyn. He supports his wife, Beatrice (Diane Hidalgo), and orphaned niece, Cathrine (Tadja Enos), but money is scant, life is a grind, and the slums of Brooklyn are full of dangerous secrets: immigrants who've stolen into the U.S. to work and send money back to families in countries devastated by war and economic collapse. Organized crime is omnipresent--the syndicates provide manual labor for fresh-off-the-boaters--and the INS is a constant, creeping threat, giving each character in View the burden of "seeing nothing and saying nothing." The tremulous homeostasis of Eddie's life begins to destabilize when two illegal immigrants he's agreed to house (cousins of Beatrice) arrive from Italy. One cousin, Rodolpho (Kody Siemensma), develops a burgeoning romance with Cathrine, and a jealous and confused Eddie fights for his young niece's affection, driving a wedge between family members. When he's out of civilized options to prevent Cathrine and Rodolpho's marriage, Eddie executes an undeniably permanent strategy for excising the cousins from his home and Cathrine's life, heaving the play toward its inevitable, tragic end.

BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at UCSB Department Of Theater And Dance
Photo: David Bazemore

An intimate production performed in the round, the audience placement, in tiers on four sides of the action, creates the enclosed atmosphere of a stacked tenement. Light-boxes with a silhouette of the bridge loom overhead, a reminder of the prestige and beauty of an American dream that's out of reach for the dockworkers and laborers living in its shadow. Intermittent foghorns and blasts from the ocean-liners add to the ambiance as audible punctuations to dramatic action that remind the audience of the characters' proximity to the literal and figurative "edge" of American society.

BWW Review: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at UCSB Department Of Theater And Dance
Photo: David Bazemore

A View From the Bridge features a strong cast, from leads to the ensemble, who fully embody their roles as community members and function as characters instead of scenery pieces creating the illusion of neighborhood bustle. Steven Armstrong, as the lawyer, Alfieri, provides unheeded counsel to Eddie and deadpan narration to the audience, creating dramatic irony with a noir-esque appeal. In a male-dominated play written by a male playwright, Diane Fidalgo and Tadja Enos (as tough-love Beatrice and headstrong Cathrine) provide strong female representation as well-rounded characters finding their strength in a culture obsessed with the importance of "male-ness." While less-nuanced characterizations would render these women as rudimentary archetypes (Cathrine as the forbidden virgin and Beatrice as the nagging crone), Fidalgo and Enos's portrayals gave realistic shape to the struggles of women searching for stability without the aid of wealth, position, or implicit cultural importance. Finally, Jason Bowe's Eddie Carbone was a gnarled bone of a man whose self-loathing, existential discontent, and emotional repression heaved the production toward its inevitable tragedy.

A View From the Bridge may sound posh, but it presents a constricted, demanding lifestyle with few pleasures. A well-constructed script, a simple but effective design, and a cast of compelling characters handling the implication of socially relevant themes make A View From the Bridge an easy homerun for the UCSB Theatre department.

Hear the Podcast with Irwin Appel discussing both shows at Theatrixsb.com.


Related Articles

Santa Barbara THEATER Stories | Shows


From This Author Maggie Yates