July 17, 2019

Excellent acting as Miller tells his tale

A View from the Bridge
by Arthur Miller
State Theatre Company South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre.
July 16. Tickets: $32- $67. Bookings 131 246 or online.
Duration 2 hours 27 minutes (including interval)
Until August 3.

Arthur Miller once said that his plays were the story of how the birds come home to the roost. They would fly about imagining they were free, but sooner or later they were destined to return to the branch. He called it the descent into the present by the past.

This iron logic of inevitability Miller took from Greek tragedy and Ibsen, and it describes the fate of Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman, unwilling and unable to acknowledge that his devotion to his teenage niece, Catherine, has become enmeshed and perverse. The gathering crisis erupts when she meets and falls in love with the romantic young Sicilian illegal immigrant, Rodolpho, a match Eddie is hell-bound to oppose.

From the opening moments in this powerfully realised State Theatre production, director Kate Champion establishes the sense of foreboding that pervades the play. The lawyer, Alfieri, says it in Act I – “There are times when you want to spread an alarm, but nothing has happened.”

Heralded by Jason Sweeney’s evocative score (chiming electrified distortion suggesting both fanfare and dirge) the actors gather on Victoria Lamb’s vertiginous dockyard set of metal cages and hauling ropes. Chris Petridis’ lighting is suitably foggy and opaque, becoming more forensically illuminating in the later domestic confrontations.

There have been multiple views from Arthur Miller’s bridge recently, not only in Australia, but with the re-definingly spare, in-the-round, Ivo Van Hove version for the Young Vic. With the exception of some, perhaps misplaced, choreographic character interplay at the end of Act I, Kate Champion has wisely trusted the naturalistic truth of Miller’s family portraits.

There are excellent performances and they highlight the strength of the assured, theatrically galvanising text. As the thwarted young lovers, Catherine and Rodolpho, Maiah Stewardson and Antoine Jelk are endearingly unworldly. Stewardson’s Catherine is vibrant and open-hearted. Her scenes with Eddie are rife with unconscious feeling. Jelk brings an eccentric warmth to the good-natured Sicilian village boy who buys fancy boots and wants to visit Broadway.

Dale March as his older brother Marco, desperate to provide for his stricken family, is a brooding presence as the enmity with Eddie unfolds, but in the final confrontation the starkly stylised formality of his performance almost detracts from the scene. Elena Carapetis is terrific as Beatrice, Eddie’s long-suffering but loyal wife who, like Bill Allert’s well-managed Alfieri, can only watch and worry as events unravel.

It is Mark Saturno, outstanding as Eddie Carbone, who ensures the success of the production. Miller has written it that way and Saturno captures Eddie in all his folly and fury. From his effortless Red Hook, Brooklyn accent to his dockyard swagger, we watch Saturno’s Eddie turn from American optimist to a crumpled, desperate pariah. As in the best tragedy, it is both fascinating and excruciating to witness.

Published in slightly edited form as “Excellent acting as Miller tells his tale”, The Australian, July 18, 2019, p.15.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment