Summer in Southwest Michigan is when and where folks come to play, and in the world of live entertainment, a land of musical theater where one is hard pressed to find stage drama of the classic variety, much less a tragedy — perhaps for good reason.
But when one comes upon a riveting drama, it provides almost a strange relief; a heightened catharsis, even. This is the powerful effect of seeing Hope Summer Repertory Theatre’s production of “A View From the Bridge,” Arthur Miller’s 1955 tragedy that has had several recent critically-acclaimed, award-winning revivals on Broadway and the West End.
The story revolves around the extraordinary tragic hero Eddie Carbone, an Italian-American longshoreman in Red Hook, Brooklyn, “the gullet of New York swallowing the sewage of the world.” He and his wife, Bea, have raised their orphaned niece, Catherine, who’s quickly becoming a woman, and they’ve agreed to put up Bea’s cousins from Italy: one desperate to make money to feed his starving kids and wife and quickly return to them, and one who has American dreams of citizenship and becoming a singer. Their entrance into the Carbone’s household incites an incestuous love triangle and power struggle from which nothing good can come.
A one-man Greek Chorus, in the form of community lawyer and Italian immigrant Alfieri, poetically provides insight into the context and motivations of the characters and action throughout the play, making his entrances and exits through audience in the DeWitt Theater aisles.
Everything about this excellent production, directed with a steady hand by David Colacci, communicates a compelling truth: What’s twisted and repressed in the heart of one man will ultimately affect the lives of everyone around him.
Steve Cardamone gives a galvanizing performance as Eddie, the overprotective father figure “with eyes like tunnels” who turns obsessive and lustfully violent. He expresses a vast range and intensity of emotion that runs the gamut from fury to sorrow. His accent is more South Philly than Brooklyn, but only those with East Coast roots are likely to notice, and the depth and honesty of his characterization is untarnished by this flaw.
Susan Ericksen offers a subtle yet powerfully loving Beatrice, showing her impressive range; Chip DuFord as Alfieri, who serves as the bridge — between cultures and between audience and action — is, as ever, in command of his character and the audience; Lea Sevola shows remarkable change from innocence to ferocity with her Catherine; Mischa Aravena embodies tremendous pride and strength in symbolic lynchpin moments as Marco; and Skye Edwards’ guileless Rodolfo does an extraordinary dance with both Catherine and Eddie.
In support of these uniformly strong performances and the literary quality of the play, the technical elements work together beautifully to create the neighborhood and its culture. Jeffrey Levin’s sound design creates place with gulls, boats, waves, traffic, dogs, and moody transitional music. Joseph P. Flauto’s set provides an indoor/outdoor space that illustrates the lack of boundary between family and community; what happens in the home happens in the street and vice versa. Peter Sargent’s lights are at turns warm, sinister and melancholy. And Jodi Ozimek’s costumes elegantly express class as well as period.
The view from this bridge is appropriately dark and harrowing, and yet it’s so beautifully rendered, it’s worth taking a break from all the lightness of summer to go to the depths with this fine production.
A View from the Bridge
Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
July 21-August 10