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A View from the Bridge

American Players Theatre, 2017

Paul Kosidowski – Milwaukee Magazine

There are plenty of fireworks in APT’s shattering production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, but one of the most explosive moments is also one of the quietest.

Toward the end of the first act, Beatrice Carbone (Colleen Madden) is having a heart-to-heart with Catherine (Melisa Pereyra), her husband Eddie’s niece, who they’ve raised since the death of her mother. Now that Catherine is 17 years old, Beatrice tries to quell the growing sexual tension in the household, cautioning Catherine to stop behaving like a child around Eddie (James DeVita): “You’re a grown woman and you’re in the same house with a grown man.” In the stage directions, Miller calls for Beatrice to be “at the edge of tears,” but Madden’s Beatrice demands that she “say goodbye” with a steely conviction and a piercing glare. This isn’t just motherly advice of a typical Miller woman, it’s also a woman staking a claim — the integrity of her own small world is on the line.

The tension is heightened by the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, Rodolpho and Marco (Will Mobley and Casey Hoekstra), illegal immigrants from poverty-stricken Sicily. They are here to work on the docks and send money home, but Rodolpho and Catherine strike up a romance, which doesn’t sit well with Eddie.

Much of Eddie’s reaction is couched in homophobic comments — that “he ain’t right” — which land a little awkwardly after 60 years of evolving attitudes about sexual identity.

But there is no mistaking the compelling authenticity of DeVita’s performance. He projects Eddie’s pride and weariness, the bodily toll of his years working on the docks. You can see the source of Beatrice’s anxiety in the smallest gesture—Catherine helping him ease painfully out of his workingman’s jacket, his fatherly look at her from across the room. Every detail moves the story toward its tragic conclusion. Miller’s narration is almost superfluous to the drama, but Brian Mani delivers it with matter-of-fact reserve that befits Miller’s aspiration to pen an American tragedy worthy of Aeschylus.

For the superb specificity of the performances, also credit director Tim Ocel, who finely tunes the ensemble and controls the story’s inevitable pace. With a cast of ten actors, this is a story that could have held its own on the larger, outdoor stage, but it gains immeasurable power from the intimacy of the indoor Touchstone Theatre. It’s hard to imagine a finer rendering of this great American classic.

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