Friday, Jun 23, 2017

A View from the Bridge (2008)

Let me get this out of the way right now: A View From the Bridge is the best play I saw this year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Yes, other plays were more defiant (I’m looking at you, Midsummer) or more “beautiful” (yes, there’s love for you too, Clay Cart). Hedda Gabler was more inventive, and The Comedy of Errors was, strictly speaking, more entertaining. But no, View knocked my socks off in a way that none of the others reached. It is fundamentally solid in all aspects, with outstanding acting in service of a fine play. The set is clever without being (ahem) a scene-stealer. The sound and lighting are fine if unremarkable. This is not a spectacle, this is above all things a story told by great storytellers.

I have yet to see a play go wrong by revolving around Armando Durán, and he is wonderful again as Eddie Carbone, an Italian longshoreman who doesn’t know what to do with the complex emotional tangle he finds himself in. The threads of his tangle are his wife Beatrice (Vilma Silva, an amazing foundation for the rest of the cast to build on), his niece, Catherine, the object of his unwitting love (played by Stephanie Beatriz with a perfect, Juliet-like cusp-of-womanhood flair), and Rodolpho, the illegal immigrant whose only crime is to be a better match for Catherine. Juan Rivera LeBron gives another stand-out performance here, grounding Rodolpho’s sweet nature in a believable veneer of Old World / backwater naivete. Really, I’m sweating finding unique comments for the cast, as my thoughts really boil down to “they were all great, they meshed cohesively, go see them now.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the story (like I was), it’s easy to understand without being simple. Eddie and Beatrice are Italian-Americans living in an ethnic neighborhood in New York in the 1950s. They’ve been raising Catherine like a daughter, but she’s actually their orphaned niece, and as she approaches womanhood Eddie seems to be nursing a crush. Complicating matters considerably are two cousins of Beatrice’s who are sneaking into the country from Italy and staying on their floor while they earn the money to pay off their importer and start to get ahead in life. One of them, Rodolpho, charms her almost immediately. Chaos ensues.

A View From the Bridge isn’t a laugh-a-minute romp and it doesn’t pull any punches, but it wasn’t so traumatic that I felt ambushed. On the contrary, I was thrilled to have experienced an intricately-wrought production like this almost by surprise.