This week Practically Peter Productions are bringing Arthur Miller’s canonical A View from the Bridge (1955) to the Pilch.
Miller’s play tells the story of the Carbone family, second-generation Sicilian immigrants who live in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. At its centre is patriarch and dockworker Eddie Carbone (Caleb Barron). Alongside Eddie is his wife Beatrice (Martha Berkmann) and also his niece Catherine (Philomena Wills) who has grown up with her aunt and uncle. Mirroring the conventions of Greek tragedy, A View from the Bridge traces Eddie’s downfall and the eventual collapse of the family that surrounds him.
The first scene I saw in the preview was between Bea and Catherine early on in the play. In it, Bea advises her niece not only about her future but, crucially, about Catherine’s sometimes too close relationship with her uncle. “You’re a grown woman in the same house as a grown man,” Bea declares. What makes this scene so special is that we are able to witness two generations of very contrasting women. Berkmann’s assured Bea and Wills’s playful Catherine bounce off each other beautifully.
This scene was followed by another between Eddie and his lawyer, Alfieri (Joe Stanton). Alfieri acts as a narrator throughout the play – in this scene he describes our protagonist: “I remember him now as he walked through my doorway – His eyes were like tunnels”. Alfieri’s higher degree of knowledge than other characters means that his role echoes that of the Greek chorus, and, like Bea with Catherine, he has something important to say about his client’s relationship with his niece: “Let her go”. Stanton’s Alfieri is sophisticated and he speaks his lines with great diction and clarity – details that too often fall to the wayside in student theatre. Barron brings to the monumentally well-known role of Eddie Carbone a naivety that feels fresh – as Barron says to me later; despite the life he has made for himself ‘Eddie doesn’t really know anything at all.’
The final scene was between Catherine and her love interest, Rodolpho (James Akka). These young lovers playfully fantasize about their dreams, but this youthfulness is inevitably a product of anxieties in the play. Wills puts her finger on the complexity of Catherine as a character: Catherine is simultaneously a clueless and dependent child, but also a significant force with more knowledge about her own power than she lets on.
Afterwards, in the middle of a discussion with co-directors Joe Woodman and Joel Stanley, as well as the members of the cast, Woodman remarks that both he and Stanley were so keen to put on this play just because of the brilliance of the characters. I must say I agree with him; Miller’s writing offers up many layers to explore and lanes to follow.
Equally, Woodman emphasizes that it is up to the audience to make a verdict on certain aspects of the play. For example, the potentially Freudian nature of Eddie and Catherine’s relationship is a consistently revisited theme in productions of this play, but Woodman insists that, in their rehearsal room, it was important not to take a fixed view on this. ‘It is up to the audience to decide,’ Woodman remarks. What impresses me most about this cast and crew is their openness when approaching what is indubitably a mammoth work, and I look forward to seeing what they do with it.