“A View From the Bridge” at Alley Theatre
It’s a no brainer to program an Arthur Miller play in a season of theater, he is after all the most prestigious playwright of 20th century American theater (after O’Neill and Williams). But the addition of A View From the Bridge speaks volumes about the time we live in.
While A View From the Bridge is about many things, it’s particularly about illegal immigration into America. In this case the illegals are Sicilian and during the play’s premiere in 1955 there weren’t strip malls, taco trucks or situation comedies with Archie Bunker, which is an obvious by product of Miller’s characters.
A View From the Bridge takes place in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, the home of such notables as Al Capone, Norman Mailer and H. P. Lovecraft. The bridge is the Brooklyn Bridge and the protagonists, working class stiffs, live in its shadow. The immigrants gladly work for $40 bucks a week as longshoremen.
The bridge motif is illustrated by a background silver backdrop that shines in various degrees of intensity depending on the emotion of a particular scene. In a reference to the political theme of the play, a “wall” rises up from the floor at select times during the running time.
Miller originally staged his play as an unsuccessful one-act but he then broadened the play to two full acts, which is the version that audiences and fans view today.
Eddie, the breadwinner and prototypical Archie Bunker character, has hidden designs on his niece who shares his house. His wife puts up with his demands to the point of losing her soul. Her relatives arrive illegally and subsequently get work on the docks and crash at their house. This is a point of conflict as one of the immigrants has designs on the lovely niece much to the chagrin of Eddie.
There’s never been a successful film adaptation of View despite many tries. One scene depicts a man on man kiss, although it is not homoerotic, rather an indictment of one person’s effeminate nature.
Miller is never less than tragic and events do not end well. However, in the space between the prosaic introduction of the characters and the powerful conclusion, the audience will be caught up in a web of powerful pathos that can only be experienced in a theater setting.
A View From the Bridge runs at the Alley Theatre through May 21.