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“View from the Bridge”

Long Wharf Theatre

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Long Wharf Offers Site Specific “View from the Bridge”                                      

Remember the well-made play?  The quaintly old-fashioned, perfectly crafted drama featuring – God forbid – a beginning, middle and end?  A play featuring fully-developed characters that seem to live in the real world and who you subsequently care about, for better or worse?  The plays like Arthur Miller used to write?  Well, you can see one of that master’s classic dramas, “A View from the Bridge”, currently on stage in a site-specific production by New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre.

 The new site, just under a mile from their original theatre, is in a beautifully reconfigured space at the Canal Dock Boathouse which features floor to ceiling windows overlooking New Haven’s Harbor with the “Q” Bridge on the horizon.  It’s a fitting backdrop for this beautiful play that mostly works for just about the entire production.

Set in the 1950s in an Italian/American neighborhood located near the Brooklyn Bridge, longshoreman Eddie Carbone (a magnetic Dominic Fumusa), his wife, Beatrice (Annie Parisse) and her orphaned niece Catherine (Paten Hughes) welcome a pair of illegal Italian immigrants, Rodolpho (Mark Junek) and Marco (Antonio Magro), into their home.  Eddie, who is harboring repressed feelings for Catherine, becomes enraged when his niece begins to show interest in the handsome Rodolpho.  The play is narrated by a Greek chorus of one, the lawyer Altieri in a sex change role that actress Patricia Black very much makes her own.

All the acting, under the assured direction of James Dean Palmer, is splendid at Long Wharf with leading man Fumusa’s dominant performance seething with repressed passion and fury.  As Beatrice, Parisse demonstrates great reserves of strength as the put-upon wife who turns out to be no doormat.  Chemistry sparks vividly between Hughes and Junek so that you care deeply about this doomed couple while Magro’s quiet but compelling Marco is like a watchful cobra ready to strike.  Although changing the sex of Altieri isn’t really period correct, I loved Black’s no-nonsense Brooklyn street smarts for the role.

There is definitely something immersive about watching “A View from the Bridge” in this setting (by scenic designer You-Shin Chen) featuring a panoramic view of the water with the occasional seagull flying by.  I caught the matinee so all this was on glorious view which makes me wonder how well the night performances work.  I would imagine that Kate McGee’s lighting is seen to better advantage in the evening compared to the matinee where scene fades and blackouts were problematic. My audience was confused by both the intermission and final curtain due to the lighting.

On the outside, open-air deck of the set we can observe other longshoremen (pity poor Mike Boland and Todd Cerveris in these thankless roles) who, depending on where you’re sitting, are often obscured even as their voices are piped into the theatre.  The use of the deck is especially unwise when the play’s dramatic climax is staged there.  Sitting on the house left side I was unable to see anything that happened during this crucial moment.  That was the one jarring note in an otherwise excellent production, however.  “A View from the Bridge” remains a tragedy of uncommon depth and feeling that hasn’t aged a day.  Go.

“A View from the Bridge” continues at Long Wharf Theatre at the Canal Dock Boathouse, 475 Long Wharf Drive in New Haven, Connecticut through March 10. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office 203.693.1486 or visit: www.longwharf.org.               

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