Doom comes to Brooklyn in Two Chairs production of Arthur Miller’s gritty tragedy at The Players Centre for Performing Arts.
Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” propels a cast of sympathetic characters on a trajectory to tragedy in this Two Chairs production at The Players Centre for Performing Arts. They’re doomed; they just don’t know it yet.
The time is the early 1950s. The place is a poor, Italian-American neighborhood near the docks in Brooklyn. Eddie Carbone (Jim Floyd) is the protagonist. He’s a longshoreman, and just past his physical prime. His punishment flows from a good deed.
Years ago, he agreed to raise his wife’s orphaned niece, Catherine (Lauren Jones). She’s grown up to be a nubile young woman. The passion’s gone out of Eddie’s marriage to Beatrice (Carrie McQueen); he can’t admit that an illicit passion for Catherine has replaced it.
To complicate matters, Eddie opens his home to two illegal immigrants from his wife’s family — the sensitive Rudolpho (Dylan Jones) and his bullish brother Marco (Rik Robertson).
Catherine immediately falls for Rudolpho. Eddie seethes with sexual jealousy — though he won’t admit it to himself. (Eddie disguises his lust with an ugly rationalization. He claims to despise Rudolpho because he’s secretly gay and wants to marry Catherine as a shortcut to citizenship.)
Eddie’s anger hits the boiling point when Catherine actually accepts Rudolpho’s marriage proposal. Eddie’s lawyer, Alfieri (Charlie Tyler), tells him there’s nothing he can do — nothing legal anyway. Eddie realizes he has one option. It’s legal, but it’ll disgrace him forever. Eddie goes through with it and falls from grace. But his punishment has only just begun.
Miller’s circle of hell comes to life with loving care. Bill Rusling’s tenement set is as depressing as Ralph Kramden’s shabby flat in “The Honeymooners.” Georgina Willmott’s costumes convey character without busting the working-class budgets of the people who wear them.
The actors give it their all. Floyd’s Eddie wants respect but doesn’t give it. Despite his flaws, he’s a good-hearted Everyman. But he’s not an intellectual. Reason doesn’t rule him. Eddie’s feelings control his actions. He can’t face his feelings, and he’s doomed. Floyd delivers a tightly wound performance as a nice guy on the road to perdition.
McQueen’s Beatrice knows what road he’s traveling. She sees her husband’s quasi-incestuous passion for what it is, but doesn’t dare say it to his face.
Lauren Jones’ Catherine seems sweetly innocent, though perhaps not entirely innocent. She lights Eddie’s cigar and comes close to flirting with him. Her Catherine’s not a little girl anymore; she should know better. Does her character know what she’s doing on some level? The playwright leaves it open — and Jones’ performance does, too.
Dylan Jones is winning as Rudolpho — a happy-go-lucky, artistically talented, ambitious soul who doesn’t fit Eddie’s definition of a “real man.”
Robertson’s Marco is polite but quietly threatening. He’s impressive in the scene where he hoists a heavy chair with one hand as a test of strength. Robertson conveys a true sense of murderous menace in the play’s climactic battle.
Tyler is also effective as the family’s ineffective lawyer, Alfieri. He’s a one-man Greek chorus and the impotent voice of reason. A minor character. But he carries a heavy load.
The war between reason and emotion is the crux of Miller’s play. Temperamental Greek gods don’t doom his unhappy protagonist. The primitive urges of the human brain take care of that. For Eddie, it amounts to the same thing. What chance does reason have, anyway?
Based on the evidence of Miller’s play, not much.
“A View from the Bridge” is brilliant on many levels. But it often feels like a drama without choices.
For a director, it’s a tough choice. But Elliott Raines doesn’t flinch — and makes a smart choice with the problematic script. He directs from the inside-out. The actions of the characters always flow from their inner lives.
Raines also opens with a tone of warm domesticity, before building to the tragic confrontation. The result feels like a sad human story, not deterministic clockwork. In his hands, Eddie’s doom doesn’t feel inevitable.
And that feels even more heartbreaking.