Set on the urban waterfront “ in the shadow of the Bridge that faces New York", Arthur Miller’s 1950s powerful family drama, focuses on the boundaries between the individual and society, love and relationships, law and justice. In the role of narrator, a modern day Greek chorus, is Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer who relates the story of a proud man’s tragic fall from grace, with astute, sensitive observation.
A huge red brick apartment building takes centre stage with background images of cranes, ships and the bridge. Eddie Carbone, a Sicilian-American dockworker lives here with his wife Beatrice and 17 year old niece Catherine in the immigrant neighbourhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
It’s evening; a calm, intimate domestic scene in their living room as supper is served, then coffee and a cigar for the heavy, beer-bellied, bullish Eddie. He behaves as a domineering husband and over-protective father figure, prowling around and growling in disagreement at the idea of Catherine taking a typist’s job at a plumbers’ office at the docks. It seems Eddie cannot accept that his niece is now a young lady and orders her to remove her high heels: “ Katie, you are walkin' wavy! I don't like the looks they're givin' you in the candy store. The heads are turnin' like windmills."
Performed with subtle, simmering aggression by Stanley Townsend, Eddie’s patriarchal control over his family begins to disintegrate when Beatrice’s Italian cousins, Rodolpho and Marco, come to stay with them as illegal immigrants. As Catherine (quietly played with gentle, girlish, innocence by Kirsty Mackay), becomes romantically involved with the handsome blond Rodolpho, Eddie’s obsessive love for her turns to jealousy. He teases the boy’s interest in cooking, singing and dancing and believing him to be homosexual, challenges him to a boxing match. Marco then challenges Eddie to lift a chair holding one leg and when Eddie fails, Marco easily lifts it over his head, proving superior strength and attitude.
Watching every move from the sidelines like a referee, always trying to keep the peace, Kathryn Howden’s natural, very watchable portrayal of Beatrice reveals a good natured, unselfish woman, whose love of her stubborn husband remains true to her sympathetic heart.
The emotional mood and dramatic pace flows along on a fairly even keel, later shifting upbeat with friction and foreboding as the action revolves around Carbone’s moral dilemma. He has a choice between loyalty, revenge and personal justice. With Alfieri acting as the devil’s advocate, his (and our) perspective is a view from the metaphorical bridge between American law and the social values of the tight knit Italian community.
14 January to 12 February, 2011