It was nice not to have studied A View From the Bridge. I went with a completely open mind, not knowing the story, the characters nor how sad the ending was going to be – although I had heard it was tragic. Opening with a narrator who framed the story and took the audience back, the set became a small, minimalist apartment dining room. Its size and structure was perfect to place the scenes within a claustrophobic intensity where relationships often overlapped and the ever-present emotional tension looked set to seep onto the Playhouse boards.
The play begins just before the arrival of two illegal immigrants from Italy in the house of Eddie Carbone, who lives with his wife, Bea and niece Catherine. It’s clear from Eddie’s response to the announcement that his niece has found herself a job, that his overprotective nature and concealed obsession are about to dictate the lives of the main characters, an obssession which accelerates with the arrival of Marco and Rodolpho, who Catherine quickly falls in love with. The cast managed to create a sufficient amount of suspense through the development of the story; Catherine’s jovial naivety and Bea’s yearning for the resurrection of her marriage complimenting the practical desires of the relatives who are there for work, regardless of the love of their families or the beauty of Italy that they leave behind. As Rodolpho observes, ‘you can’t cook a view.’
Barney White’s portrayal of Eddie was outstanding, partly for achieving the accent without force or farce, but mainly for a perfect communication of his character’s tortured emotion: his torn loyalties and his feelings for those he supposedly loves. Peter Huhne’s Rodolpho I was fearful at times of becoming too caricatural, but mostly his comedic turns of phrase and reactions to Eddie or Catherine were charming and loveable, and conveyed vulnerability, if occasionally slightly lost in pre-emptive muffled laughter from the audience. The female characters were also interesting, if a little overshadowed by such prominent performances from the main male performances, though I think this was intentional and represented the controlled and strained relationships that formed the basis of the whole story.
On the whole, the play was very good but I can’t help but feel this was significantly due to such a strong and sympathetic lead performance, which left me genuinely on the edge of my seat towards the end. A social commentary and emotional story, the final scene didn’t require a closing narration, or an influx of supporting actors who just crowded the stage, but it left a bitter taste, a moral conundrum. Eddie had asserted, ‘some people are not people,’ and A View From the Bridge no doubt made you consider whether there is any truth in that.