Inspired, visceral 'View From the Bridge' opens Goodman Theatre's season

  • Eddie (Ian Bedford), right, becomes concerned about the attraction between his niece Catherine (Catherine Combs) and newly arrived Sicilian immigrant Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles) in Goodman Theatre's "A View From the Bridge."

    Eddie (Ian Bedford), right, becomes concerned about the attraction between his niece Catherine (Catherine Combs) and newly arrived Sicilian immigrant Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles) in Goodman Theatre's "A View From the Bridge." Courtesy of Liz Lauren

  • Ian Bedford delivers a bravura performance as longshoreman Eddie Carbone in Belgian director Ivo van Hove's revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" at Goodman Theatre.

    Ian Bedford delivers a bravura performance as longshoreman Eddie Carbone in Belgian director Ivo van Hove's revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" at Goodman Theatre. Courtesy of Liz Lauren

 
 
Posted9/21/2017 11:30 AM

The final moments of Belgian director Ivo van Hove's meticulously minimalist revival of "A View From the Bridge" depict despair so starkly, so viscerally it almost takes your breath away.

Van Hove's remarkable re-imagining of Arthur Miller's play -- remounted here as Goodman Theatre's season opener -- is about as pure an expression of Greek tragedy as you'll experience. If catharsis is what you seek, you will surely find it in van Hove's stripped-down, superbly acted production, which unfolds over two unrelenting, intermissionless hours within what appears to be a boxing ring.

 

Surrounded on three sides by audience members, the ring (by set and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld) is an appropriate setting given the pummeling the members of the Carbone family inflict and endure. The space is empty. There are no props, except for a simple wooden chair. The actors are barefoot. Their clothes, by costume designer An D'Huys) are mostly muted.

The effect focuses audience attention on Miller's rough poetry; his flawed, conflicted characters and the inevitable fate that befalls a traitor.

Lust and betrayal propel the tale, which begins on a stage bathed in red with dockworkers washing away the day's grime. It ends with a gripping, blood-drenched finale with a shattered family united in their shared grief. A tragedy fulfilled.

The increasingly inappropriate affection Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford) shows his niece Catherine (Catherine Combs), left, upends his marriage to Beatrice (Andrus Nichols), right, and his standing in the community in Goodman Theatre's "A View From the Bridge."
The increasingly inappropriate affection Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford) shows his niece Catherine (Catherine Combs), left, upends his marriage to Beatrice (Andrus Nichols), right, and his standing in the community in Goodman Theatre's "A View From the Bridge." - Courtesy of Liz Lauren

Serving as narrator is Alfieri (a fervent turn by Ezra Knight), the astute, world-weary attorney who serves as de facto Greek chorus. While spending much of the play on the periphery, Alfieri senses the catastrophe pending but is powerless to stop it.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It begins during the mid-1950s, in an Italian-American Brooklyn neighborhood where middle-aged longshoreman Eddie Carbone (a bravura turn by the combustible Ian Bedford) lives with his wife, Beatrice (the informed, expressive Andrus Nichols), and her niece Catherine (an authentic, transformative Catherine Combs), who the couple raised from infancy.

Eager to be out from under the watchful eye of her beloved but overprotective uncle, 17-year-old Catherine informs the couple she's been offered a stenographer's job at a plumbing company. Eddie objects, while Beatrice -- who senses her husband's affection for her niece has taken a decidedly unpaternal turn -- supports Catherine's bid for independence.

Carbone family life is further disrupted by the arrival of Beatrice's cousins: family man Marco (Brandon Espinoza) and his younger, more garrulous brother Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles). Unable to find work in their native Sicily, the undocumented immigrants arrive in the U.S. illegally hoping to get jobs to support their family.

Director Ivo van Hove's propulsive revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" -- featuring Ian Bedford, left, Catherine Combs and Andrus Nichols -- is about as close to Greek tragedy as you can get. It runs through Oct. 15 at Goodman Theatre.
Director Ivo van Hove's propulsive revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" -- featuring Ian Bedford, left, Catherine Combs and Andrus Nichols -- is about as close to Greek tragedy as you can get. It runs through Oct. 15 at Goodman Theatre. - Courtesy of Liz Lauren
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To Eddie's dismay, Catherine is immediately attracted to Rodolpho, a charmer who likes singing, sewing and cooking and wants more than anything to become an American citizen. Consumed by passion and jealousy he can neither comprehend nor articulate, his pride wounded, Eddie betrays the brothers and makes himself a pariah.

He is the classic, tragic figure: undone by his own ego and a lack of self-awareness. Like Miller's Willy Loman, Eddie Carbone does not know himself. He fails to recognize what everyone else ultimately perceives: the love he bears for his niece -- however it began -- has become obsessive, unnatural and dangerous.

For lacking understanding, we might pity him. But betrayal of his kin leaves no room for sympathy. Not in the stark, unflinching world reflected in van Hove's production, which premiered in 2014 at London's The Young Vic theater, transferred to the West End and then to Broadway where it earned 2016 Tony Awards for revival and direction, which is inspired.

Lust and betrayal lead to the downfall of longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford), center, in Goodman Theatre's remount of Ivo van Hove's "A View From the Bridge."
Lust and betrayal lead to the downfall of longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford), center, in Goodman Theatre's remount of Ivo van Hove's "A View From the Bridge." - Courtesy of Liz Lauren

Just how inspired is evidenced by the ferocious, finely tuned performances, the spare design, the faint echoes of a requiem and the occasional rumbling that underscores the action. And van Hove's skill is reflected in a brilliantly executed scene late in the play. Fueled by anger, suspicion and jealousy, the tension among the extended family members is palpable. It's reflected in the strained staccato dialogue, in the distance the characters place between themselves and in their anguished expressions. Uncomfortable to watch, it's impossible to turn away.

That's van Hove's vision. And that's what sustains this unforgettable "View."

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.