“You know, sometimes God mixes up with the people. We all love somebody, the wife, the kids, every man’s got somebody that he loves-heh? But sometimes… there’s too much. There’s too much and it goes somewhere it musn’t. A man works hard, he brings up a child, sometimes it’s a niece, sometimes even a daughter, and he never realizes it, but through the years-there is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?” (Alfieri, View from the Bridge)
View from the Bridge at the Goodman Theatre
Written by Arthur Miller and directed by Ivo van Hove, View from the Bridge follows the story of Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford). When the story begins, the audience meets his wife, Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) and his niece, Catherine (Catherine Combs), and at first, all seems well.
Enter Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles) and Marco (Brandon Espinoza), Eddie's Italian cousins who come to stay for a while. When Catherine and Rodolpho start to develop a romantic relationship, everything begins to spiral out of control. Eddie’s jealousy consumes him, and as the tension builds, the audience is left to wonder how the pressure will finally burst.
Miller masterfully structures the story to allow the tension and drama to sneak up on the audience. Along the way he may leave little clues, but it is impossible to predict just how much Eddie’s jealousy will grow. As with so many Miller plays, View from the Bridge is certainly a dark tragedy, and Miller successfully portrays how one small disruption of the normal life for a family can force his characters to eventually react in the extreme.
Ivo van Hove skillfully brings the tension of Arthur Miller’s dark drama to life in his production, particularly through his collaboration with the design team.
Scenic and Lighting Designer Jan Versweyveld’s set is minimal, consisting of a rectangle in the middle of the stage. The floor is white, and the space is completely enclosed, with a doorway upstage for entrances and exits. All of the action remains inside the enclosed space, emphasizing the pressure and inescapability within the story.
Sound Designer Tom Gibbons aids in that aesthetic, particularly through the use of drums in key moments of tension. In essence, the play is about a man whose love for his niece grows out of control, which he comes to realize through the intrusion of an outside figure on his family’s life. When moments would arise in the play that connect to that building of tension within Eddie, Gibbons’ would introduce a drumming.
One particularly memorable moment is when the audience first meets Rodolpho, and Catherine is instantly attracted to him. She goes to get him some coffee and asks the simple question “Do you like sugar?” Immediately the action on stage slows, and the drumming begins – at first softer, then slowly heightens in volume. Eddie watches the two characters move towards one another, and while it is still too early in the play to predict the outcome, the design and staging of the moment emphasizes the true important of the interaction.
The minimal set creates a striking image on stage, and Ivo van Hove utilizes this space to full advantage in his staging. The enclosed space emphasizes the isolated nature of Eddie’s family, and the exclusion to outsiders. As the tension between characters builds with Eddie’s jealousy, the characters still remain in the box, and the audience can feel the pressure growing. The characters are forced to interact with nowhere to hide, and van Hove beautifully brings those feelings of discomfort to life.
The only character to exist outside of the enclosed set is Alfieri (Ezra Knight) - a lawyer, as well as the narrator of the story. Alfieri remains an outsider for much of the play, and only enters the box when he becomes Eddie’s lawyer, and assumes an active role in the family, which is also when van Hove and Costume Designer An D'Huys makes a minor, though fascinating choice with his appearance.
In addition to being the single character to live outside the space, Alfieri is also the only character to wear shoes. All of the characters are barefoot throughout the play, except for the lawyer. When he is outside the box, he has shoes, and only takes them off upon walking through the doorway and stepping on the white floor. The change in status becomes a striking image in the removal of the costume piece, and van Hove subtly informs the audience that the stakes have heightened – every character is now stuck inside the box with no escape.
Ivo van Hove’s cast for this production is top-notch, and the ensemble shares excellent chemistry that is necessary to tell this story. Miller’s script is challenging in its own way, and van Hove’s choice to use minimal set and props forces the entire story to be placed on the shoulders of the actors. This cast rises to the challenge with ease, and creates a theatrical event that is thrilling to watch unfold from start to finish.
Ezra Knight’s portrayal of Alfieri is calm, and offers a lovely contrast to the high emotional performances of others on stage, particularly in his scenes with Ian Bedford as Eddie Corbone. Andrus Nichols as Beatrice shared some passionate moments. It is easy to feel for her as she begs Eddie to love her once more as his wife, and understand her motives as she tries to encourage Catherine to marry and leave their home.
Eddie Carbone is the center of the story, and Bedford masterfully controls the stage through his portrayal. He showcases a lovely journey from a simple, but happy longshoreman to an angry individual blinded by jealousy. His performance is convincing and even scary at moments, and this energy helps heighten the stakes in just the right moments.
Thrilling and aesthetically striking, Ivo van Hove’s production of View from the Bridge is a must-see event.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now extended through October 22, 2017
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Run Time: 2 hours, with no intermission
170 N Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60601
For more information on tickets, visit the Goodman Theatre website.
Special Extended Week Offer
For the final week only, use promo code CUBS for discounted tickets at the mezzanine level - running at $20.17.
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.