I have never seen any production by Arthur Miller. The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, nope. Haven't even seen the movies made of of all 3 of these.
Friday I corrected this literary deficiency and went to see A View From the Bridge, courtesy of a friend's extra ticket. We managed to miss the first scene courtesy of my bad directions. Set in early 19-something Brooklyn, this is the story of an Italian-American family (uncle-aunt-niece) who take in a couple of illegal immigrant cousins (married & single brothers) from the Old Country and the ensuing drama.
If this is what Miller's work is like, I'm surprised no one has done research to determine if there's an association between watching his work and an increased suicide rate. I guess the fact I was just morose, rather than seeking oblivion from the misery and futility of life, is due to the acting quality one normally finds at the Gutherie Theater.
Perhaps it was the initial "I wandered into the set of All In The Family" feeling, but I spent the first act wondering what god-awful thing was going to happen. The blatantly obvious foreshadowing in Scene 1 of some neighborhood guy ratting out illegal workers to the INS was so blatant that perhaps it was intended to leave me wondering 'when is he going to rat out these fellows' throughout the next 90 minutes? (BTW "submarines" must be an archaic antecedent to "wet backs").
Another surprise was the realization that the initial production date was 1955. I'm subsequently left unsurprised that the House Committee of UnAmerican Activities thought he was an undesirable character. The attitudes of the main character, Eddie, were unsurprising and perfectly acceptable for the 50s. Gays weren't exactly a widely embraced sector of American society; suspicion of illegal workers marrying just for their citizenship papers persists today. But, the final confrontation with his feelings for his neice, and his method for demonstrating the unworthiness of another man's affections for her was shocking. I just can't come to grips with that having been done in 1955. I suppose if it managed to shock me in 2008, it is a credit to the playwright's ability to draw me in to the play's setting, rather than my own.
The Actor playing Eddie was the picture perfect image of a 40s blue-collar archetype. I can see where Archie Bunker came from. The woman playing the 18 year old niece was an annoying version of the all-too-often-seen character which must be advertised as 'bouncy enthusiastic dotting daughter who is required to bouncily skip around the stage at all times'. Good lord, almighty - who in their right mind wants an actress to behave like this? Have you actually seen anyone over the age of 6 walk around the house like this? Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road ain't got nothing on this chick. If this was supposed to underscore her non-adult behavior towards her uncle, being his 'little girl', it failed and simply annoyed me. There must be other ways to convey this.
Acting aside - I find I'm generally not great at assessing the merits of actors in any meaningful way beyond 'I like it' - the framework within which the action occurs was really nice. The theater is big enough to allow a complex set to be built. This provided plenty of space without needing to have a huge footprint. The little details, especially how the secondary sets were moved in/out were nice. E.g. a group of longshoremen bring in a huge crate, open it, and voila! the desk for an office scene is left on the stage's skirt. The primary set of the family's house remained intact, while the other scenes were set around the skirts of the stage, allowing the home life of the typical dysfunctional American family to remain the center point of the story, keeping it in view the whole time.
Right after the set design, as the best part of the show was Rudolpho, the single brother who - of course - falls madly in love with the family's niece at first sight. Perhaps he was remarkable simply by dint of not being some stereotype. He flung himself into the part with the same enthusiastic un-self-consciousness that one expects from the character himself.
I have no set recommendation scale for plays, as I do for movies. So, "would I recommend it?" Yes, I would. Although it's not a 'drop everything and go see it if you can'.
Hmmm... I suppose I need a scale for theater ...
Worth the price of tickets & babysitter: go see it!
If there's an afternoon matinee ...
Well, if someone else has an extra ticket ...
You need to balance your checkbook, don't you?
18 hours ago