Hope Summer Rep offers tragic view from tragic ‘Bridge’
HOLLAND, Mich.–Love can do funny things to a person. And by funny, I mean tragic.
Few American playwrights have grasped the genre of Greek tragedy the way that Arthur Miller did and anyone wanting to see why he was the master of the craft should grab a ticket to Hope Summer Repertory Theatre’s A View from the Bridge before they’re gone.
Directed by David Colacci, the company’s artistic director, A View From the Bridge is unrelenting in its depiction of life on the docks near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York—the hopes, the dreams, the frustrations and the fears. Colacci presents a perfectly paced show, one that builds to its inevitable end. He fills the stage with his ensemble, creating the framework around which the main story plays out. The result is a unified show in which everyone contributes to Colacci’s very clear vision.
Like all good Greek tragedies, this very American show has both a Greek chorus/narrator and a tragic hero.
The chorus/narrator exists in the person of Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer, played by HRST regular Chip DuFord. In the opening monologue, he warns us of what is to come and introduces us to the family that makes the core of the play. DuFord has a strong presence on the stage and Peter Sargent’s lighting helps him to make the most of his role. He sets the mood and every time he appears, he nudges the plot forward toward its unavoidable end. DuFord balances well the all-knowing role of the narrator with his character’s involvement in the plot—and his analysis that draws the audience into the deeper aspects of the show.
Steve Cardamone provides the play’s tragic hero, Eddie. Like all heroes, he is initially likeable. He’s a good guy and we see this in the devotion he gets from his wife and his ward. Cardamone makes sure Eddie is sympathetic—at least to begin with. He’s a hard worker and is pleased to be able to open his home to the two illegal Italian immigrants who are his wife’s cousins. Cardamone gives us the full arc of Eddie’s story from his initial heights to his eventual tragic fall. He expertly handles the ups and downs, infusing them with credibility.
He also shows exactly what love does to Eddie. It doesn’t take long for the audience to pick up on hints that perhaps his love for his niece, Catherine (Lea Sevola), is not as paternal as it should be. It is this love, this unspoken passion, that becomes his undoing, something his devoted wife Beatrice (Susan Ericksen) sees coming but is powerless to stop.
Sevola plays her part well in helping the audience to root for Eddie. She captures Catherine’s innocence and naiveté, two factors that play their part in helping to undo Eddie, because unlike Beatrice, she cannot see what her presence does to her uncle. Sevola has wonderful chemistry with both Ericksen and Cardamone, a factor which really makes this play work and contributes to the eventual tragedy.
Ericksen’s Beatrice could be a tragic figure in her own right. Ericksen captures this not just with the things the script gives her to say, but her ever-changing body language—the way she holds herself taut when she cannot give full voice to her heart, the way she moves to his side because she cannot do otherwise. She is masterful in her interpretation of her role, making it clear that Beatrice, like Alfieri, can see what is coming, but unlike him, tries desperately to prevent it.
Eddie’s issues begin to reveal themselves shortly after the arrival of the two Italian brothers—the serious Marco (Mischa Aravena) who has a family and children at home he is trying to support and the young Rodolfo (Skye Edwards). Catherine is immediately smitten with the blonde Rodolfo, which causes Eddie to come unhinged.
Both brothers handle the accent well (as does everyone in the cast) and it helps to set them apart from the rest of the characters, making it clear they are new, out of place and “different.” Aravena gives Marco a quiet depth. We see him as a man devoted to his family and willing to go to great lengths to support and protect them. Like many people with great depth, he is slow to anger but once there, stays on full boil. Aravena captures this well and like Ericksen, says as much in his silences as he does with his words.
Edwards portrays a Rodolfo who is blissfully unaware of the dangers that surround him. He is everything Eddie is not, which contributes to Eddie’s resentment of Catherine’s love for him.
HRST never holds back on giving its actors a playground on which to tread. This show is no exception. Scenic Designer Joseph P. Flauto creates an intimidating backdrop to a simply furnished home. The buildings tower above the characters, making full use of the space’s height. There is no bridge in sight, but the colors help to set the tone and create the neighborhood.
Jeffrey Levin’s sound contributes to the setting of the stage, starting when the lights first dim and the sounds of the dock and its ships fill the space.
There is a lot of meat in this play, which is to be expected from Arthur Miller. While written in 1955, the question of immigration remains a hot button for Americans—how do we treat them? How do we shelter them? What does their presence mean for them and for us? How do they make us who we are as a nation?
But A View From the Bridge works not just because of its politics, but because it is intensely personal. It examines the different forms of love, tolerance, jealousy and betrayal. It doesn’t preach or lecture; it casts an unrelenting spotlight on our humanity, our foibles and the choices we make that turn out to be tragic.