Scarlett Johansson, left, and Liev Schreiber (Photo by Joan Marcus, 2010)
NEW YORK – A new production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” buoyed by the Hollywood wattage of Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, smartly directed by Gregory Mosher and supported by a strong ensemble of fellow players, gets a good deal of theatrical power out of Miller’s play. It is at the Cort Theatre on West 48th Street.
When Mr. Miller set out to write “A View from the Bridge,” he had grand expectations for the play, which he wrote in verse as a one-act modernization of a classic Greek tragedy. Paired with “A Memory of Two Mondays,” it opened on Broadway in 1955, ran 149 performances and was not deemed a success.
A year later, for a London production, Mr. Miller rewrote it into two acts, dropped the verse, expanded the women’s roles and turned Eddie Carbone into an everyman. This new version of the play became a success, and is the version that has been played, published and filmed.
As a tragedy, the play never really worked; as a melodrama it is on more solid ground.
Eddie Carbone (Mr. Schreiber) is more of an everyman than a hero’s representative of mankind. He strikes me as a bewildered fellow of big muscle and strong mind who can’t understand that his niece (Ms. Johansson), whom he raised from childhood with his wife, Beatrice (Jessica Hecht), is now a woman, and that he must let her go and allow her to marry another man in an honorable marriage.
Mr. Mosher has gotten all the emotional strength of the play on stage, as well as its simplicity and immediacy, and has ably coached his actors to play in that manner.
As Eddie, the frustrated Brooklyn dock worker, Mr. Schreiber follows the pattern set out by his director, giving a performance of turbulent and increasing, seething strength. His Eddie is hard-headed, a man who lives as the impulse moves him. When he looks at the 18-year-old Katherine, he is torn to pieces by thoughts of her marrying Rodolpho (Morgan Spector) and leaving his household. He is fierce in his sudden anger, violent when crossed and incapable of brokering a truce for fear of losing. He must roar and holler and have his way.
In the final scenes, when he is drawn into madness by his niece’s love for her fiancé, Mr. Schreiber’s Eddie is brilliant in his raging passion; when he has betrayed the young man, he becomes the tragic figure that Mr. Miller intended. In that last scene, which takes place on a Brooklyn street, Eddie fights for his good name with a touch of dignity and something that approaches heroism. Here Eddie, as played by Mr. Schreiber, is memorable.
Although her Brooklyn accent is all over the map, Scarlett Johansson gives a simple, direct performance in her Broadway debut as Eddie’s niece. Ms. Hecht, who seems to make a specialty out of playing beleaguered women, is touching as Beatrice; as Katherine’s immigrant beau Rodolpho, Mr. Spector is properly boyish, while Cory Stoll is quietly imposing as the young man’s older brother. Michael Cristofer is strong as the lawyer Alfieri, Miller’s one-man Greek chorus, who tries to talk some sense into Eddie. All contribute to making this an impressive production of Miller’s vintage play.
Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers the arts and entertainment.