THE BASICS: A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, the classic American drama by Arthur Miller, directed by Robert Waterhouse, starring John Fredo, Debbie Pappas Sham, Renee Landrigan, Peter Palmisano, Adriano Gatto, Adam Yellen, John Kreuzer, and David Lundy is up only through March 26, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:30 and also 7:30, with the final performance this Sunday at 2:00 at the Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Avenue. Run time about 2-1/2 hours with one intermission. Coffee, cookies, fruit, cheese, and wine available. (829-7668) www.kavinokytheatre.com
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: In this intense psychological drama, Eddie the hardworking longshoreman and his wife Beatrice have been raising their niece, Catherine, and now that she is a young woman, Eddie’s devotion to her is getting creepy and complicating everyone’s life. Eddie has agreed to sponsor/shelter two illegal immigrants from Italy, but when one of them, Rodolpho, and the niece plan to get married, Eddie’s jealousy explodes.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: This is one of the best assembled casts in a season of powerful performances. John Fredo plays your average middle aged American Joe beset by forces outside his control better than any local actor these days. From Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN, to Herbie in GYPSY, to George in OF MICE AND MEN, and now to Eddie Carbone in VIEW, he has the face and the voice and the gravitas to be 100% convincing. And, he has one more thing. He’s an accomplished dancer and choreographer (often seen at MusicalFare) so his performances never drop into the slouchy, sad-sack, stumble-bum style. There’s always that tightly wound inner core that, even if he never does explode (although he does here) Fredo moves lightly on stage, and, even if unarmed, must be “considered dangerous.” Oh yes he must.
One of the finest theatrical moments I have seen has Palmisano and Fredo, two veterans of Buffalo stages, facing off, downstage, center.
Peter Palmisano is also perfectly cast as the lawyer, Alfieri, a role that also serves as narrator/Greek Chorus in this play about people who seem to be the playthings of capricious gods. One of the finest theatrical moments I have seen has Palmisano and Fredo, two veterans of Buffalo stages, facing off, downstage, center. I can’t imagine any other two actors improving on that scene. That moment, a preview of the disaster to come, is so good that when the proverbial does hit the fan, it’s almost an anti-climax.
In this play we in the audience see what’s happening between Eddie and his niece; also Alfieri knows what’s happening, but the only other character aware of the coming collision is Eddie’s wife, Beatrice, a role beautifully performed by Debbie Pappas Sham. Like Fredo, Sham is also a veteran MusicalFare singer and dancer and moves convincingly around a rather large and bare stage as she tries to protect her man from himself.
Completing the family triangle is Catherine, played by Renee Landrigan. Yes, she’s also a MusicalFare singer/dancer who is often seen in kid’s shows at Theatre of Youth. What range these actors have.
Adriano Gatto as Rodolpho, Adam Yellen as his brother Marco (the two illegal immigrants), John Kreuzer as another longshoreman, and David Lundy as the Immigration Officer all do well in their respective roles.
I can understand the minimalist set, reminiscent of Greek theaters, to emphasize the similarity between Arthur Miller’s play and those of say Sophocles or Euripides. Or, to quote another famous Greek, Homer, in THE ODYSSEY: “Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.” (Thank you, Mrs. Meese, for making us memorize that in AP English). So, I “get it.” But I didn’t like it. I prefer a staging where we actually see the Brooklyn Bridge.
That being said, if we are going “minimalist,” then another quibble is the appearance at the end of hyper-realistic immigration police wearing Kevlar vests, using walkie-talkies, and carrying automatic laser-sighted rifles. This was just a distraction and was a speed bump along the dramatic arc.
All in all, this is a gritty, edgy, enduring tragedy that is well acted and is definitely worth seeing before the end of its run this Sunday afternoon.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!