How stripped-down is Ivo van Hove’s new Broadway revival of A View From the Bridge? The set, designed by his longtime partner Jan Versweyveld, is essentially a 16×21-ft. box, not unlike a boxing ring. Props are almost entirely dispensed with: There’s no food for longshoreman Eddie (Mark Strong), wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker), and 17-year-old niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) to eat; no coffee for them to serve to their just-arrived illegal immigrant relatives Marco (Michael Zegen) and Rodolfo (Russell Tovey); not even a knife for the climactic final scene. Van Hove has permitted a chair and a cigar, because the sight of Catherine lighting a cigar for Eddie is too deliciously squeamish to skip. It also confirms everything the audience has known, and has been fearing, from the start regarding Eddie’s incestuous feelings. Shoes seem superfluous for these salt-of-the-earth Red Hook, Brooklyn, characters. Barefoot is much more their element — though lawyer Alfieri (Michael Gould), the outsider watching this tale “run its bloody course,” is permitted shoes at the start. Marco and Rodolfo seem to have lost their accents on the long boat ride from Italy. Other (mostly silent) characters — an immigration officer, Mr. and Mrs. Lipari, their relatives, neighbors — have been quietly excised.
The Belgian director is making his Broadway debut, having helmed the show to three Oliviers in its London incarnation earlier this year. He happens to be one of New York’s hottest commodities this season (between View, the upcoming David Bowie —Enda Walsh musical Lazarus, and his spring revival of Miller’s The Crucible with Ben Whishaw and Sophie Okonedo), and has brought Miller’s 1955 tale of illicit passion, self-deluded pride, and familial betrayal closer to a Greek tragedy than any production in recent memory. (That includes the highly praised 2010 revival with Liev Schreiber and a Tony-winning Scarlett Johannson.) Van Hove has even put 158 seats on stage — his very own Greek chorus. It’s worth remembering that Miller first titled the piece An Italian Tragedy.
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But his View may not be to everyone’s liking: The dirge-like music that underscores the entire production can grow tiresome and sometimes heavy-handed. If you’re not sure when to really pay attention, don’t worry: ominous drumbeats will increase in rhythm, or chanting will grow louder. (On the plus side, the ever-present background noise does muffle mid-show cellphone ringing.) And personally, I missed Rodolfo’s Italian accent. Along with his blond hair, tendency to break out in song, and agility with a needle and thread, it’s something that makes him stand out — something that makes him attractive to Catherine. And something that makes Eddie see him as “not right.”
As for Eddie, Strong is fiery-eyed and fiercely unsympathetic. He goes for the jugular, but not our heartstrings. Eddie is “not a man to weep over,” wrote Miller, and View “does not attempt to swamp an audience in tears.” So if you find yourself dry-eyed at the end of van Hove’s high-concept, low-frills production, there’s no need to check your pulse. And if you find yourself relating to Eddie, there’s no need to panic; that means Strong (and Miller) succeeded. B+
A View From the Bridge