Peering into 1950s Brooklyn at the University Theatre
A review of ‘A View from the Bridge’
BY: PARKER SHANNON
The California Repertory Company recently staged Arthur Miller’s American tragedy A View from the Bridge in the University Theatre at CSULB. The play, while relatively simple in production, was still quite powerful and evoked several reactions from audience members throughout the night.
The play starred CSULB theatre arts advisor and lecturer Josh Nathan as Eddie Carbone and Kathleen Wilhoite, who has appeared in “Gilmore Girls” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” as his wife Beatrice. The interplay between these two actors was integral in keeping the pacing and tension of the entire play appropriate throughout the evening.
Nathan in particular delivered a very natural, convincing performance that allowed audience members to empathize with Eddie’s increasingly erratic, illogical actions.
Just one set served as various locations -- the Carbone’s’ home and street outside, the neighborhood lawyer’s office, the local jail and the docks where longshoremen worked -- throughout the production. Its two-level construction and nondescript, rough façade allowed it to easily morph into the handful of locations necessary for the play.
This transformation of the set from one location to another was achieved very cleverly through changes in lighting and ambient sounds. Shifting locations from the street outside to an apartment interior was smooth, effective and quite impressive without actually moving any set pieces.
During interior scenes, the second level became the Carbone family’s upstair bedrooms. When two characters fought in the street, the upper level served as the titular bridge from which secondary characters had a view of the neighborhood. During several scenes, the top level of the set served as a viewing area for the narrator, a lawyer called Alfieri who addressed the audience at key moments in the narrative, to look over his neighbors as the story progressed.
Large scenes featuring most of the cast were very realistic in that the actors convincingly spoke over one another. It may seem odd to praise performers for stepping on each other’s lines, but families don’t often wait for each other to finish their thoughts during a heated argument, and the Carbones were no different. During some of the more intense scenes, it felt like the audience was peering in through the window of a real family in Brooklyn.
The production was bookended by actor Sky Paley’s portrayal of the Carbones’ neighborhood lawyer and Eddie’s impartial confidant Alfieri. Paley’s performance was the low point of the play, which was unfortunate because he was the first and last character the audience heard from in the production. His Italian accent was stiff, repetitive and frequently difficult to understand. Every sentence was given the same inflection, syllabic stresses and emotional tone, dissolving the wide variety of feelings clearly running through the character’s mind into a monotonous stream of words delivered in an indiscernible, stereotypical impersonation more similar to Count Chocula than an actual Italian immigrant.
The California Repertory Company’s professional and student actors delivered believable, honest performances that gave life to this tragic tale of American life. The set design, lighting and sound cues worked cleverly to transport the audience between locations as well as create tension and atmosphere throughout the performance. Despite the problematic portrayal of Alfieri, CSULB’s staging of A View from the Bridge was a moving and emotional experience.