The latest revival of “A View From the Bridge”—the Arthur Miller play is having its third Broadway outing in 18 years—will be noted for its stark set, ghostly sound effects and mesmerizing performance by Mark Strong, as the conflicted Italian-American longshoreman Eddie Carbone.
Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s stripped-down take on the 1955 drama takes place on a well-illuminated square stage surrounded by benches. He has nearly turned the Lyceum Theatre, where “Bridge” has just opened, into a boxing ring.
Van Hove's acclaimed reinvention was named Best Revival at the 2015 Olivier Awards. Strong, who has appeared in films such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Imitation Game,” also took home an Olivier.
Over two hours, with no intermission, “Bridge” steadily builds anxiety, because of its performances, surely, but also due to a ceaseless humming that reminds you of being at the movies when a subway passes nearby … though here, the rumbling never stops.
Mr. Alfieri (Michael Gould), the Red Hook lawyer astute in the mores of his working-class clientele, narrates. It’s the attorney who famously articulates the assimilated immigrant experience: “Now, we settle for half.” In other words, “when there are disagreements, we compromise.”
Well, some people do, anyway. Not Eddie, a stand-up guy who lives with his wife, Beatrice (Nicola Walker). Together, they’ve raised her niece, Catherine (Phoebe Fox), who has blossomed into womanhood and been hired for a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Eddie harbors sublimated desires for Catherine and isn’t thrilled with this news, because it will mean sharing, and eventually letting go of, the young woman. To this fragile scenario, add the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins from Italy, Rodolfo (Russell Tovey, of HBO’s “Looking”) and Marco (Michael Zegen), who are here, illegally, to find work.
This production hangs on the performance by Strong, who acts with his entire lanky body and nimbly moves between rationality and psychosis. Is he in control of his incestuous feelings, or do they control him?
Rodolfo is a freewheeling Renaissance man: he sews, he cooks and he sings … would that the word “gaydar” existed in 1955. Catherine falls for him quickly, but Eddie—with his slanted mindset—is certain his wife’s cousin is a homosexual, merely using a relationship with Catherine to gain citizenship.
Tovey, who made his Broadway debut a decade ago in “The History Boys,” is a bleach blonde here. I liked his performance, though there isn’t anything in it to radiate “Italian immigrant.” I also liked that his motives remain murky, whatever Eddie may think.
On the other hand, there’s the fantastic Zegen (“Rescue Me”), a clear immigrant archetype who stands up to Eddie in a psychological show-of-strength that hinges on nothing more than lifting a wooden chair. In that moment, we hear Marco’s unspoken message to Eddie: “Mess with my brother, and there will be hell to pay.”
Walker, as Beatrice, is motherly and strong. And I enjoyed Fox’s Catherine, with her innocent appeal. (Scarlett Johansson won a Tony in the role when “Bridge” last played in New York.) Gould, in his occasional interludes, is effectively noirish.
The fate of a Red Hook snitch is depicted in the climax, a scene so graphic here the stage is saturated in red. Van Hove’s next New York project is “Lazarus,” a new show co-written by David Bowie that begins previews next week. For now, his “Bridge” is edge-of-your seat drama that leaves you gritting your teeth.
“A View From the Bridge,” through Feb. 21, 2016 at the Lyceum Theatre. Tickets: $39-$135. Call 212-239-6200.