Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge is a classic of the American theatre, much as his works All My Sons, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible were before it. The themes explored within its story of masculinity, incestuous desire and keeping up appearances are timeless and yet over time new facets reveal themselves and add even greater richness to the immense writing. This production, directed by Iain Sinclair removes all distraction in the forms of set or spectacle to draw extreme focus to script, keeping the pace relentless so that the tragic ending crashes to its conclusion with breakneck force.
For the unfamiliar, this is the story of an Italian-American family, Eddie (Steve Bastoni), his wife Beatrice (Daniela Farinacci) and Beatrice’s orphaned niece Catherine (Zoe Terakes), living in Brooklyn in the 1950s. Catherine has just turned eighteen and is keen to join the workforce, but Eddie is over-protective, in a loving, though quite obsessive way, wanting to deny her access to the world of other men. When the couple agree to harbour Beatrice’s cousins Marco (Damian Walshe-Howling) and Rodolpho (Andrew Coshan), illegal immigrants from Italy looking for work in America, Eddie’s position as the number one man in Catherine’s life is swiftly usurped, causing the proud man to go to extremes in an attempt to bring his life back into the order he wants it.
This is Sinclair’s second go around at Miller’s tale of irrational obsession, his first production being at Sydney’s tiny Old Fitz theatre just under eighteen months ago, also with Terakes in the key role of Catherine. The simplicity of staging required in that venue has clearly inspired this bare presentation on the expansive Sumner theatre stage, with practically no set used and simply a chair gracing the performance space. Although it could it also be said that Ivo van Hove’s 2014 conceptual production at London’s Young Vic (and Broadway in 2016), has provided some inspiration in terms of paring down the visual elements, but this production lacks that one’s impending sense of simmering menace.
It’s a risky move to take away all other visual distraction from the performances and puts enormous pressure on the actors, but Sinclair has pushed his cast to deliver intense levels of drama that they deliver in spades ensuring this production is riveting. Bastoni is excellent as the entirely fixated Eddie. Despite his morally repugnant behaviour, you can’t help but feel some compassion for this damaged man, and that’s a difficult position to achieve.
After her splendid MTC debut in last year’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, it’s a pleasure to see Terakes back on the Sumner stage and no surprise that Sinclair wanted her back again after his Old Fitz production. She perfectly embodies the youthful exuberance of a girl on the cusp of womanhood and delivers a stunning portrayal of frustration and compromise as she tries to hold together a dream that seems to be disappearing before it has had a chance to set.
Fresh faced WAAPA graduate Andrew Coshan makes his MTC debut with a thrilling performance as Rodolfo. The young immigrant with a dream to sing is effervescent in Coshan’s hands, at one moment seemingly naïve, the next painfully realistic. It’s an assured introduction and hopefully not the last time we’ll see him on the MTC stage.
Farinacci delivers a wonderfully genuine performance as Beatrice, a woman bound by the pressures of family and desperate to keep each of her kin at balance. Walshe-Howling brings Marco’s respect for traditional values to the forefront in a strong portrayal.
While there is no real set to speak of, the stage design by Christina Smith is effective and her costume designs are simple, yet perfect. Lighting Design by Niklas Pajanti does the work of creating the setting and atmosphere with his beautiful use of reds and blues. It’s strikingly good design, some of the best seen on this stage.
If there’s a bone to pick with this production it’s that in its pursuit of highly focused drama that will reach the back of the large Sumner theatre auditorium, it has a minimal sense of light and shade. This is a production that runs in fifth gear almost from start to finish, which makes for spellbinding storytelling but misses an opportunity to create even greater depth of meaning.
That said, this is still an excellent production and worthy of Miller’s brilliant script. Those familiar with the story will be just as engaged as those who are new to it, who no doubt will be struck that story more than sixty years old can still be so contemporary and moving.