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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

“A View from the Bridge”

Published: February 7, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” is showing this weekend in Laurie Theater in Spingold, sponsored by Brandeis Theater Company. As a part of this week’s ‘DEIS Impact festival, the show highlights social issues such as incest but, more prominently, homophobia.

“Only God can make justice,” the play’s narrator, Mr. Alfieri (Alex M. Jacobs MFA), tells the audience in the second act. Though words like “homophobic” or “gay” are never uttered, the play doesn’t shy away from these issues. A fiery performance from the cast brought gritty emotion and reality to the show.

Eddie and Beatrice, played by Jonathan Young MFA and Sara Schoch MFA, are a married couple who took in their orphaned niece, Catherine (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard MFA). Set in Brooklyn in the ’50s, the conflict arises when Beatrice’s relatives, Marco and Rudolpho, illegally immigrate to the U.S. and Catherine and Rudolpho begin to fall in love. Eddie’s strong affection for Catherine creates high tension in the household. Young and Schoch took command of the stage and demonstrated a broad emotional range from screaming matches to more tender moments of tears.

Young embraced the particularly challenging task of humanizing the monster that is Eddie. By bringing a sense of honesty to every scene, the audience’s sympathy for the character grew. Young revealed vulnerability in Eddie. While his aggression toward his family was unsavory, there was hope that he could be turned around for a happy ending. Rather than hating him for his homophobic and incestuous motivations, the audience wished for his repentance but was only disappointed in the final scene when Eddie was persistent in his desires. Young’s passionate delivery of every line gave the character true depth.

While the show’s main cast brought life to the stage, undergraduate students playing small roles as neighborhood residents gave the audience of “A View from the Bridge” a peek into what felt like a real niche community. Jeffrey Maser ’15, Zachary Marlin ’16, Siddarth Mehra ’17, Samantha Browne-Walters ’15, Ryan Millis ’15, Miriam Esther Goldman ’14, Ben Lewin ’16, Andrew Hyde ’17, Victoria Deick ’17 and Deborah Trierweiler ’15 represented other neighbors, illegal immigrants (referred to throughout the show as “submarines”) and immigration officers. The cast added a tangibility and believability to the script.

Another layer of tangibility was added with the intricate set. Only twice did the crew have to bring on furniture—each time one table and two chairs. The stage was transformed, giving the aura of a real place and home. Below, cobblestone street covered the ground and sidewalk lined the stage. Instead of a bulky door to represent the passages from outside to inside, a simple top of a doorframe hung above the stairs. Inside the home, each detail was presented with actual objects. As Beatrice held one conversation with Eddie, we saw her take the tinsel off of the small Christmas tree, unplug the lights and individually wrap small ornaments and pack them away. Rather than leaving details like this to the imagination of the audience, the objects added to the realism of the set.

In the Laurie Theater, however, the square stage fit awkwardly. While every seat was not filled, entire sections of the audience would have had completely different experiences than sections on the other side of the room. From the left side, for example, the central view of a fire escape was nonexistent. Additionally, audience members not in the center often found themselves looking at actors’ behinds. For the most part, this was a distraction; however there were instances where it contributed to how the audience sympathized with different characters. In addition, occasionally specific placement of the cast felt like an conscious directorial decision. In the final fight scene, the members of the neighborhood were gathered around, yet close to the audience in doorways and entranceways to the theater, to make everyone feel like they were part of the community and at the fight. While audience members felt like they were part of the community, they sometimes felt as if they were the ones in back that were jumping up and down to see what was happening, with cast members blocking the view.

Another notable directorial decision was the music chosen. Intense, dramatic tones, reminiscent of a thriller’s movie trailer, crescendoed in the background during tense moments, often when the narrator was spotlighted to expand on events of the play. The dramatic mood set by the low sounds added to the gravity of the events. Though it was obvious in its purpose, the music perfectly spread tension throughout the theater.

Though set in the 1950s, “A View from the Bridge” addresses issues still relevant to society today. With shows every day over the weekend, it is a quality way to wrap up a week of critical thinking with ’DEIS Impact.