A View from the Bridge
Written by: Arthur Miller
Directed by: Ivo van Hove
Production website 💉💉💉 out of 5.
So much to love about this production and so much to be totally annoyed with! I found the idea of taking this quintessential piece of American realism with its walls, floors, furnitures, carpets, doilies and hokie Italian artwork and stripping it down to nothing was really exciting. Gone were all the trappings of the set. Replacing the set was a stark bright white floor looking hard, unforgiving and anesthetic. A ring of black benches circled the square and a simple doorway was placed upstage center. Captivating in the very first minute! As the “boxed curtain” rose around the white square we witness two men, Eddie Carbone (an amazing, haunting Mark Strong) and his co-worker taking a shower under a massive steaming running shower. The masculinity and working class grit was there at the beginning.
Throughout the production I was struck by the beautiful staging by Ivo van Hove. It was if I was watching a masterclass in direction where only body positions, angles and corners, proximity and distance, and flow were telling the story without the need for even a single word to be spoken. Every position of the white square was being used beautifully! It made me instantly want to raise my game as a director – – would that all plays make total sense on a blank white square before getting shuffled off to the realistic trappings of story telling.
The other most beautiful element of this production was the way that it presented the brutal expected parts of the story in totally surprising primitive ways. The one that sticks out most to me is the ultimate showdown between the two foils when you see these two strapping, rough men look at each other with rage and you can just feel that the fists are going to come up and we are going to be off and running with a bout of stage pugilism – – but what happened next took my breath away. As the two men approached each other with blood in their eyes, with full exception of black eyes at best – the two men locked lips and had the most brutal, primitive, anamilstic kiss that you can image. It hurt MORE then if the two men had simply thrown blows at each other – totally unexpected, totally upsetting and unnerving and totally right for the moment. BIG artistic risks from the director with a BIG payoff!
The other example of “oppositional staging” was the end of the show when the family essentially explodes as the ultimate predictable deal between the patriarch and the man he betrayed plays out in the expected murder. As the family gathered in the living room (white square) and the murderer entered – one expected the normal fight to the death – but what you saw on stage was a family (good guys and bad guys) all together hugging each other tightly into a ball in the center of the stage. This family was not exploding it was imploding the aftermath was even more devastating. Brilliant, unexpected, unconventional staging!
And now the part I hated. Every single moment on stage was accompanied by rather ominous movie-like scoring. The music rose each and every moment of the piece. I felt as though the director did not trust his MOST capable actors into creating the mood and rather imposed it with the heavy handed music he played. Then it got worse – as the play was reaching it conclusion and tension was reaching its climax the water dripping started. The loud repetitive amplification of water dripping popped in and out of every blessed pause. Once or twice it would have been effects, perhaps, but used this often it became the genuine water torture. (I now understand how simply dripping water can get any spy to confess.) Why the dripping sound? Why the full orchestration under the play? Why the over-the-top recorded Italian opera at the end? You stripped the setting of all its extraneous nonsense – couldn’t you have done the same thing with the sound. White square – brilliant directing – gritty acting – and no sound effects. How sweet it might have been done! And for anyone who has actually seen the show – didn’t it make you want to reconsider the next shower you take? – don’t want to say more – buy your ticket and bring your ear plugs.