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A Miller's Tale

[whitespace] A View From the Bridge
The Good Fight: Randall King puts his dukes up as Eddie in Arthur Miller's 'A View From the Bridge.'

San Jose Stage Company revives Arthur Miller's 'A View From the Bridge'

By John Angell Grant

IN RECENT YEARS, the American immigrant story has been chronicled in detail by storytellers from many different ethnic groups--Irish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and others. One effect of this intensely felt, latter-day human drama is to change the perception of Arthur Miller's 1950s play A View From the Bridge, which opened Saturday at San Jose Stage Company. A View From the Bridge has a strong pedigree. It was originally produced in New York in 1955 as a one-act play. In 1956, British director Peter Brook staged the premiere of the full-length version in London. In 1997, the play was revived on Broadway and won two Tony Awards. Nonetheless, 44 years after its first production, and in the context of the ethnic storytellers mentioned above, the play feels like a formulaic tale that's been constructed around ideas, rather than a story of flesh-and-blood people. A View from the Bridge is like an earnest and thoughtful episode of the 1950s TV drama series Playhouse 90.

In the play, longshoreman Eddie Carbone and his wife, Beatrice, a working-class Brooklyn couple, have raised their niece Katie after her mother's death. It's now time for the young-adult Katie to find her own life. When two relatives from Italy arrive to stay at the house, because there's no work in the old country, Katie takes a shine to one of them, and Eddie's protective jealous instincts kick in. He criticizes Katie's love interest for having a high voice, and for being skilled at cooking and sewing. There are pointed indications of homosexual desire in Eddie. Miller has attempted to write a modern timeless tragedy. Using the character of neighborhood lawyer Alfieri as a narrator, or chorus, he guides us toward the story's "inevitable" tragic end--all of this in the context of heavy doses of progressive 1950s psychological character analysis.

In retrospect, it would be interesting to know more of the story of the Carbones' childless marriage. And what's the story with Katie's birth father? No mention is made of him. Additionally, all the family relations in the play belong to Beatrice (she is aunt to Katie and cousin to the two immigrants). Where is Eddie's family? Understanding in these areas might crack open the sense that the play is academic and keep Eddie from feeling like a writer's symbol. Having said all that, San Jose Stage has mounted a good production of this retro melodrama. Randall King throws himself intensely into his performance of narrow but well-meaning patriarch/guardian Eddie. Janis Bergmann is a convincing Beatrice. There are strong performances from the other actors, and James Reese has directed the play well. As a bonus, in a rare Bay Area appearance, 83-year-old playwright Arthur Miller will speak Thursday (April 22) in Morris Daily Auditorium on the San Jose State University campus.

A View From the Bridge plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through May 8 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $16-$22. (408/283-7142)

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From the April 22-28, 1999 issue of Metro.

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