Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Stage

Tampa Repertory gives proper respect to Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’

TAMPA — Arthur Miller’s 13th play, A View From the Bridge, may be set more than a half-century ago but couldn’t be more relevant today. It tackles America’s struggles around immigrant discrimination and gender identity with searing honesty.

Though it wasn’t a commercial hit when first produced in the mid-1950s, the emotionally volatile drama enjoyed several successful revivals, including a Tony-winning revamp on Broadway in 2016.

Miller came up with the title while imagining commuters traveling across the Brooklyn Bridge. He envisioned their impressions looking down on Red Hook, a working-class waterfront neighborhood. Fascinated by the disparity between perceptions and reality, he gathered true stories about the area. One involved a dock worker, shunned by his peers for turning in an undocumented immigrant.

It’s a timeless drama, expertly revived by Tampa Repertory Theatre artistic director C. David Frankel. The University of South Florida theater professor has his finger on the pulse of what’s on our minds while curating classics that contend with the challenges we still face today.

The dock worker anecdote inspired the tale about longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Ned Averill-Snell) and his family (Emilia Sargent, Hannah Anton). A distinguished narrator Alfieri (Michael Mahoney) guides us. Carbone takes in two Italian brothers (Nick Hoop and Nathan Jokela) and experiences distress when one, Rodolpho (Hoop), begins to court his adopted niece, Catherine (Anton). The exuberant, serenading young man is not conventionally masculine, adding to Carbone’s discomfort with the situation, which spirals into tragedy.

Frankel co-directs A View From the Bridge, delivering Miller’s visceral drama with authenticity and expert pacing. We’re treated to Miller’s knack for a gradual build of tension and, most of all, engaging, empathetic characters. Jo Averill-Snell’s lighting and Igor Santos’ exquisite music and Matt Cowley's background sounds create the perfect mood.

Kudos to co-director Megan Lamasney. With her assistance, we get another superb performance from Ned Averill-Snell, who may fetch an award for his turn as Carbone. Like Death of a Salesman’s Willy Loman, Carbone is a fallen hero, and Averill-Snell fleshes him out with the right amount of pathos, eliciting sympathy and disgust simultaneously, with a New York accent and blue-collar swagger.

The women in the cast, initially shortchanged in Miller’s original one-act version, give the rewrite its due. Anton conveys Catherine with the innocence of a sheltered young woman while showing grit and resolve. She’s no aw-shucks ingenue, and her shades come through in Anton’s performance.

Likewise with Sargent as Beatrice, a traditional Italian-American woman who deals with her husband’s inappropriate behavior, expressing outrage and maintaining loyalty, graciousness and composure. It takes an actor of Sargent’s caliber to convey this troubled matriarch.

Nick Hoop and Nathan Jokela as the Italian houseguests Marco and Rodolpho don’t disappoint. Though they look nothing alike, a casting quibble, they exhibit a convincing brotherly bond. Hoop is endearing as the lovesick Rodolpho, and Jokela poignantly portrays Marco with the homesickness of a struggling father. Their accents sounded a bit wonky from time to time, but serviceable enough to keep us locked in.

Mahoney speaks with a more accurate and understated Italian accent. He delivers the dignity and wisdom of an important attorney who’s called upon to settle neighborhood disputes.

It takes a crack cast and elegantly ascetic production to convey Miller’s uncompromising explorations of love, loyalty, betrayal and prejudice. Many questions, no easy answers. But they get us talking, and that’s what counts.

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