'A View from the Bridge'

It's not difficult to imagine Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author of "A View from the Bridge," standing on the Brooklyn Bridge and gazing out at a narrow peninsula known as Red Hook, a tough Irish-Italian neighborhood of longshoremen and their families and recently arrived immigrants (many illegal), betting their lives on finding the American Dream.

And it's in Red Hook that Miller sets this powerful and brilliantly written contemporary tragedy. The dialogue is wrenching, unsettling, filled with palatable tension and foreshadowing, tempered by a striking verisimilitude that permeates every scene &

only to be leavened with moments of comedic relief.

"A View from the Bridge" is a reminder, if one is needed, that Miller's ear for language, sense of place and character is unparalleled, bringing to his work a deftness and assurance that is startling.

At the center of the play stands Eddie Carbone (Armando Duran), married, 20 years a longshoreman, a rough-hewed man who believes in personal honor, love of family, and bed rock integrity. He and his wife, Beatrice (Wilma Silva), are childless, but have raised their niece, Catherine (Stephanie Beatriz) since she was very young.

It gradually becomes clear that Eddie views Catherine through a distorted lens, blind to the fact that Catherine is no longer a child; rather, she has matured into a beautiful young woman who is beginning to push the limits of her freedom. Eddie's wish to still protect her has evolved into something far more complex and potentially harmful. There are moments when he is a cauldron of emotions, pushed in conflicting directions, prompting him to say and do things that are contradictory and seemingly inexplicable, not only to himself but to Catherine. Beatrice, in contrast, is far more insightful than either regarding the dynamics that are unhinging this once hermetic triangle.

What crystallizes the family's dysfunction, revealing conflicting and disparate passions, is the arrival of two illegal immigrants from Italy, Beatrice's cousin Marco (David DeSantos) and his friend Rodolpho (Juan Rivera LeBron). Suddenly the family dynamics are rocked, and Eddie becomes increasingly reactive, skirting a precipice, his latent homophobia adding to his confusion and despair. The play foreshadows early on that this cannot end well, though with every scene it is impossible not to hope that Eddie will find insight. Each time he consults the neighborhood consiglieri and lawyer, Mr. Alfieri (Tony DeBruno), the possibility exists that he will hear more than Alfieri's warnings but look in the mirror that Alfieri offers with his counsel.

But self-understanding, however revelatory and redemptive, is not woven into this play and so the seeds of tragedy are sown. Eddie is fatally flawed. Not because he has coursing through him deeply human emotions which rage in opposition, but because he is unwilling to ponder them with the same courage he has lived his life on the waterfront. Hard scrabble as he is, seemingly clear about his place in the world and in his family, he is blind to deeper meanings, to the rip tides of respect and love and lust. Instead he buries his feelings behind a facade of hubris and anger, seemingly incapable of controlling his own destiny. The fates, so to speak, conspire against him and the arc of his life takes on a chilling inevitability.

Because Miller writes from the heart, from his life's experience, this play is framed by the search for indigenous communists by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s. Disregarding the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus, the Committee searched for confessions, insisting writers and artists name names. Miller was called before them, suspected of being a communist sympathizer. He refused to name anyone, risking imprisonment. His moment of strength, his courage to resist the committee and their allegations, to not betray his friends and colleagues, displayed an iron integrity. It is such a moment, as well as the complex idea of betrayal, of others and self, that Miller explores in "A View From the Bridge."

Miller's play is wonderful, rich and emotive. The actors, to a person, sweep the audience into Miller's world completely. So good are the actors, so adept at capturing and making the characters multidimensional, the play soars. Transcends. It's a remarkable experience to be enveloped by the synergism of dialogue, costuming, stage set, sound and lighting that there is not a moment when the audience is taken out of the play. The narrative flows and never yields until the cast stands stage center and bows to resounding applause offered up as unqualified appreciation for a powerful drama wonderfully presented.

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