Revivals of certain classic plays and musicals seem to be coming way too soon after their previous revivals or debut productions. In the life of a young theatregoer, this may not mean much, when a revival may be his or her first exposure to something…but in an age where Broadway prices are skyrocketing absurdly, and high quality electronic documentation from a mind-boggling combination of sources has for years virtually eliminated the haunting shadows of unreclaimable nostalgia (one way or another, almost anything of note you missed or wish to revisit, in one version or another, is available via commercial release, broadcast, bootleg, bit-tortrent download and/or publicly accessible archive like the library at Lincoln Center), a “rerun” can be a very ill-advised affair, in financial terms. The original Ragtime was still fresh in people’s memories; Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach plays were filmed and familiar; no matter how good UK actor Douglas Hodge’s imported turn as Albin/ZaZa may be, or how reconceived the production, can there be revelations enough to sustain the coming revival of La Cage Aux Folles a mere five years after it was last here?
So I approached A View from the Bridge warily, with a well-regarded if uneven revival of Arthur Miller’s Greek-tragedy inspired Italian-American melodrama having ended a nine-month Broadway run as recently as 1998. Could director Gregory Mosher and his stars—Live Shreiber, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Hecht—possibly bring something so remarkable to the table as to make A View from the Bridge a new enough experience to be worthwhile?
Not revolutionary, mind; in some ways just the opposite. Mosher & Co. haven’t been particularly seduced by the Greek tragedy template, since the cadence of the words is pure Brooklyn patois. Rather than emphasize the operatic melodrama that can come with the story of dockworker Eddie Carbone (Schrieber) and his too-possessive love for the “too-soon-adult” niece (Johansson) he and his wife (Hecht) have raised, they have colluded to play it like domestic drama, as intimate and up-close in delivery as a midsize Broadway house allows. Sure enough, as almost always happens when artists “stay out of their own way” and just truthfully explore the values inherent in the material, the bigger thematic conceits take care of themselves. When Eddie and his family put up the two illegal immigrant Italian brothers, Marco (Corey Stoll) and Rodolfo (Morgan Spector), and Rodolfo meets young Catherine, the gentle encounter, viewed by an ever-more-pensive Eddie is a whisper with the impact of a Richter scale shock wave. As usual, Schrieber’s street-charisma generates an intense, natural wattage, enhanced by the fine nuances of characterization and regional diction, reflected back with equally intense subtlety by Johansson and Hecht, a trio of blue-collar family perfection. All that’s needed for Greek drama definition is provided, with likewise understated directness, by Michael Cristofer as the neighborhood “Lawyer to The People” Alfieri, a white collar observer who delivers the message (the Chorus of course) with a blue collar heart.
It’s the same script that was used for the previous revival, but the experience is entirely different. And better for the no frills, no artifice, verite approach. It might well be considered the play’s defining production.
what the exhilaration of such an evening makes you feel—though it isn’t a
pragmatic or financially sound assertion, but how can you help it?—is
that revivals like this can’t come along soon enough…