The American dream is always just out of reach in an Arthur Miller play. A central character tries to achieve great things for his family and then becomes unstuck when his own inner demons strike him down. In A View From The Bridge that character is Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who lives in Brooklyn and works on the docks to support his wife Beatrice and their niece, Catherine, an orphan whom the couple have brought up as their own after the death of Bea’s sister.
Carbone’s downfall is put in motion when his wife’s Sicilian cousins arrive in the country illegally, in search of work and all that America can offer, and are taken in by the Carbones. The younger of the two brothers, Rodolpho (Harry Lloyd), soon takes a shine to Catherine and they become an item, much to the distress of the possessive Eddie. But his feelings towards Catherine, it is soon to emerge, are based on more than just fatherly over-protectiveness.
A sense of impending doom pervades this play from the beginning. A lawyer narrates the story, speaking directly to the audience and immediately putting Eddie’s story in the past; his downfall, it seems, is inevitable. Adam Cork’s ominous sound contributes to the sense that Eddie’s fate is sealed.
Miller’s play is very much of its time, and Lindsay Posner’s production retains the necessary 1950s setting, helped by Christopher Oram’s set, which switches from the Carbones’ neat but shabby living room to the street outside the house where young dock-workers hang out and throw dice. This is a time when illegal immigrants flooded America from a Europe suffering the after-effects of war, working-class men in Brooklyn took any work they could to support their families, and young women dreamed of being secretaries and getting married.
With a thick Brooklyn accent, Ken Stott plays Eddie as a well-meaning, hard-working man who is upended by emotions he cannot deal with. He has an understandable reluctance to see 17-year-old Catherine, the girl he has brought up as his daughter, grow up and fly the nest. But rather than succumbing to the necessary and letting Catherine lead her own life, Eddie fights against it with an anger that becomes increasingly desperate. The lawyer, consulted by Eddie over Rodolpho and Catherine’s relationship, predicts the disaster that could strike as a result of Eddie’s irrational fears, but the bull-headed man will not listen.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Beatrice is a stronger person than her husband. Suffering Eddie’s physical neglect and well-aware of the sickening reason why, Beatrice sees the situation that is developing, perhaps before anyone else. Despite doing her best to cut the apron strings between Catherine and Eddie, she cannot counteract the rage in her husband’s head which will lead to the destruction of her family.
As for Catherine, Hayley Atwell plays her with a certain innocence. She is unaware how her transformation from girl to young woman has affected the man she only ever thought of as her uncle, and, though eager to live her own life, she feels a loyalty to Eddie that she cannot dismiss.
When Eddie resorts to a desperate act of betrayal, the sense of foreboding that runs through the play is finally fulfilled.