On Stage With…
Lady Beverly Cohn, Editor-at-Large
Playwright Arthur Miller is considered to be one of the most prolific and revered writers of the last century, walking in the footsteps of Eugene O’Neill, the father of modern American drama. Miller penned 37 stage plays, including his 1949 Pulitzer Prize-winning Death of a Salesman, considered to be the greatest American play ever written and was subsequently adapted for the screen. His plays burrow deeply into his characters’ psyches revealing their hope, dreams, happiness, conflicts, hatred, and despair – some of the emotions comprising the human psyche. A sampling of his other iconic plays and/or screenplays include The Price, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, as well as The Crucible, All My Sons, The Misfits, and A View from the Bridge, which won multiple awards – Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Olivier.
A View from the Bridge, on stage at the Ruskin Group Theatre, is one of Miller’s chestnuts, but sometimes reviving an old classic doesn’t stand the test of time and could be disappointing. That said, from the opening monologue by Alfieri, the one-man Greek Chorus/narrator, wonderfully played by Sal Viscuso, I knew this play was in excellent directorial hands and that I was going to experience a Broadway-caliber production. Throughout the play, Alfieri breaks the fourth wall explaining the story and the ensuing action.
Under the guiding razor-sharp direction of Mike Reilly, who clearly helped shape the characterizations, Eddie Carbone, amazingly played by Ray Abruzzo, delivers a riveting, totally actualized performance. He is an acting lesson on subtext as his unspoken lines were as powerful as the text, revealing a man terribly conflicted over his feelings for his young niece Catherine, played by Aurora Leonard. He and his wife Beatrice, a compelling Kim Chase who delivers a heavily nuanced performance, helped raise Catherine from childhood after Bea’s sister died. Bea is a devoted, loving wife who understands her husband’s volatility and knows how to calm him down when he’s in one of his tears.
They live in a very modest apartment in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, illustrated by Kerley Schwartz’s excellent Scenic Design. Eddie works on the docks and earns a decent living – enough to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Catherine is excited to share the news that she was the only one in her class to be selected to become a secretary-in-training and was hired as a typist by a plumbing company for $50 a week. Eddie is not happy. He tells her he wants her to finish school and get a job working in a nice company, like a law firm, not a company close to the docks and in a bad neighborhood.
As is her nurturing role as his wife, Beatrice tries to calm him down, telling him it’s a good opportunity for his niece. Early on, we get a hint of his obsessive attachment to Catherine. Life begins to change with the arrival of Bea’s cousins from Italy, who basically sneak into the country to try to get work. Marco, excellently portrayed by Jesse Janzen, is married with a few children and is determined to send money home by working for a few years and eventually either going home or sending for his family. His brother, Rudulpho’s character, is performed by Brandon Lill, who captures the joyful spirit of this young man who does a lovely rendition of the Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll.”Early on, it becomes clear that Catherine and Rudulpho are attracted to each other, which begins to send Eddie into a tailspin, with him barely able to keep his emotions from surfacing.
Throughout her childhood, Catherine was extremely attached to Eddie, watching him shave, bringing him a bottle of beer, and generally being attentive to his needs. There’s ample bodily contact through innocent hugs and pecks on the cheek. Bea councils Catherine that at seventeen, she is no longer a child and cannot walk around in a slip. As Catherine becomes more and more attached to Rudulpho, she is aware of her uncle’s disapproval, an uncle who has barely let her out of his sight since she was a child.
At the beginning of Act II, Rudulpho and Catherine are alone in the house. She tells him she wants to live in Italy to get away from Eddie, whom she now fears. Because the economy and work opportunities are not good in Italy, he won’t hear of it but suggests they leave the apartment and move upstairs. In the meantime, Eddie goes to see the attorney Alfieri to see if there is a legal way he could separate the young lovers. The wise attorney tells him he should accept their relationship and wish them luck.
Catherine tries to reason with him as well, but to no avail. He is drunk and commands Rudulpho to get out of his house. Catherine tells him she will be moving upstairs with him as well. Things go from bad to worse. Eddie goes to a payphone and calls Immigration to rat out the brothers and gives his address. Two immigration officers show up, played by Jeff Prater and Aaron Marshall. Marco is furious, accusing Eddie of taking the food out of his children’s mouths. He spits in his face, akin to laying down the gauntlet. Eddie’s reputation is now sullied, and he wants Marco to apologize. What transpires next is a punch in the gut as the unexpected denouement will shock and surprise you.
In his own brilliant way, Miller touched upon almost every basic emotion – love, desire, obsession, jealousy, and betrayal with the Italian characters reaching for the elusive American Dream. This is a memorable theatre experience and one you might not want to miss.
“A View from the Bridge”
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Avenue,
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Playwright: Arthur Miller
Director: Mike Reilly
Lighting and Sound Design: Edward Salas
Costume Design: Michael Mullen
Dialect & Speech Coach: Mary Unruh
Casting: Paul Ruddy
Fridays & Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m.
Closing: Sunday, October 8, 2023
Running Time: Approximate 2 hours
(including one intermission)
Tickets: $25 – $35
(Check box office for Seniors/ Students/Guild discounts)
Reservations online: www.ruskingrouptheatre.com or
Box Office: (310) 397-3244