In a Jan. 14 New York Times article entitled “Women Who Voted for Trump, in Their Own Words,” a woman says,“I went to Minnesota, and I had a Somali cabdriver who lectured me for 35 minutes to the airport about how women in America have too much freedom.”
I think I know that guy.
Immigrants themselves change more than they change the societies into which they enter, yet across the globe immigration has become an explosive political issue, leading to extreme events like the British exit (“Brexit”) from the European Union and our own November surprise in the recent election.
Appropriately, then, the Theatre in the Round takes on Arthur Miller’s 1955 drama, “A View from the Bridge,” which depicts Italian-Americans in Brooklyn housing illegal immigrants. Like with the lecturing cabdriver and his listener, the meeting of different cultures makes for conflict.
Theater veteran Allen Hamilton directs this two-hour production in the company’s well-known 360-degree proscenium. The play’s narrator device is brought to life by David Carey in the role of Alfieri, a lawyer who serves the blue-collar immigrant community in which he grew up. The strong script, in the form of a Greek tragedy, is made even stronger by the semi-omniscient narrator.
Eddie (portrayed by Michael Egan) works as a longshoreman, supporting his wife, Beatrice (Roberta Gibbons), and their adopted niece, Catherine (Aidan Jhane Gallivan), a willowy 18-year-old ingénue. Eddie is a sympathetic protagonist whose psychological blind spots foretell his fate.
Catherine is Beatrice’s blood relative, not Eddie’s, but he treats Catherine as a daughter, and she dotes on him. The immigration element of the drama spurs the action. Two of Beatrice’s cousins travel from Italy to work in the U.S., but Marco (Don Maloney) and Rodolpho (Derek Dirlam) bring differing motivations. Marco’s children starve in dirt-poor Italy and he aims merely to feed them with honest work. Rodolpho, however, is something of a dandy with his fair hair and dreams of becoming a singer.
For Eddie, Rodolpho threatens Catherine because he “ain’t right”—code for gay—and therefore must be dating her merely with an eye for citizenship. Eddie consults the lawyer Alfieri, who explains that his legal options for blocking their marriage are limited to either doing nothing or calling the immigration department.
Michael Egan depicts Eddie’s internal conflict powerfully. Will Eddie betray his family and become the rat? His betrayal stems from his unconscious lust for his niece and his traditionalist view of what constitutes masculinity.
Recall the lecturing cabdriver who has come to a land where women can choose career over childbearing. His culture tells him that such freedom is not only wrong, but also sacrilegious.
The play’s climax utilizes another foreign cultural concept—the vendetta—for its coda, but you’ll have to see it yourself.
Like with all Theatre in the Round productions, an understated set directs one’s focus to the actors. Nevertheless set design (Toni Solie), costume (Carolann Winther), stage properties (Sharon Selberg), and lighting (Kurt Jung) find verisimilitude with the early-1950s working class Brooklyn setting.
Arthur Miller knew the stakes of betrayal—a version of “A View from the Bridge” went on to become Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront,” the 1954 film about corruption in the shipping industry, the same setting as this play’s.
And Kazan, despite a famed directing career, found permanent ignominy in the eyes of Hollywood for naming names during the Red Scare era of Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Miller, who had appeared at HUAC and did not name names and was sentenced to jail because of it, surprisingly defended the “rat” Kazan when the latter was honored with a controversial lifetime achievement award at the 1999 Academy Awards.
A tolerant view of our humanity requires that one see the plank in one’s own eye before noting the speck of dust in another’s. Hamilton’s cast finds the human element in each role.
That’s something we should do whether we’re living under the Brooklyn Bridge or sitting in a Minneapolis cab.
PHOTO CAPTION: Eddie Carbone and his wife Beatrice have raised their niece from childhood. When she becomes romantically involved with Beatrice’s cousin, Eddie’s world implodes, leading to chaos and violence. Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy, “A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE”, performs weekends January 13 – February 5 at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. For reservations and information, call the box office at 612-333-3010 or visit www.TheatreintheRound.org. Shown: Aidan Jhane Gallivan, Derek Dirlam, Michael Egan.