Miller Time

Photo by Deidre SchooAViewfromtheBridgemay be only second-tier Arthur Miller (falling below DeathofaSalesman,TheCrucibleand AllMySons), but second-level Miller is still first-class theater, and South Coast Repertory's production on the large Segerstrom Stage proves that once again.

Directed with subtlety, taste and steady energy by SCR regular Martin Benson, Bridgeis straight-arrow naturalism, offering the tale of a middle-aged longshoreman named Eddie Carbone (Richard Doyle) living in Brooklyn in the years immediately after World War II. Frustrated by 20 years of barely eking out a living, pursued by a growing sense of his own failure, he has stopped sleeping with his wife Beatrice (Elizabeth Ruscio, in a "thankless wife" role she transcends beautifully). He finds himself drawn to his 17-year-old niece Catherine (played with real grace by Daisy Eagan), who has come to live with the Carbones after the death of her parents. When two of Beatrice's Italian immigrant cousins come to stay with the Carbones, one of them, Rodolpho (David Barry Gray, who fully exploits the role's comic potential), falls for Catherine, setting up the inevitable confrontation between Eddie's not-so-paternalistic passion and Rodolpho's youthful ardor.

The play's Freudian dynamics are obvious. The plot, sturdy as it is, telegraphs its punches; the actors overload on Brooklyn "dese and dose" accents; and the role of Alfieri (Hal Landon Jr.), a lawyer who also narrates the play, seems unnecessary. But the production has genuine power, thanks mostly to Doyle's meaty portrayal of Eddie Carbone: he gives the boneheaded, manipulative, tyrannical Eddie exactly the kind of tragic grandeur the play requires, and so Bridgeends up less a domestic crisis play about a guy who has a jones for his niece than a large-hearted meditation on Miller's favorite theme—the torturous promises of the American Dream.


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