It might seem at first that presenting Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge is a lot to ask from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s second-year MFA students. After all, this is a play with deep psychological drama, a history of some outstanding professional productions and revivals, and a cast of characters that may seem far removed from the students’ own lives.
But it is a classic, by a legend of the American theater, and so it is fitting that they study it and take on the task of enacting it. The results are a mixed success, but that may be more due to the direction by Andrei Malaev-Babel than the abilities of the actors.
It’s true that A View from the Bridge, set in the early 1950s in New York’s hardscrabble Red Hook neighborhood and centered on the world of longshoreman Eddie Carbone, reverberates with the echoes of Greek tragedy, as we trace Eddie’s downfall due to his borderline incestuous feelings for his niece, Catherine. But this production is, from the first, so laden with portent and so ponderously paced that it never allows the necessary tensions to build as we and Eddie confront his demons and the destruction they lead to. From the opening scenes, the play is too quiet, too subdued, too slow to allow us to fully engage.
That’s not to say that Miller’s story doesn’t still hold some power. We know that Eddie (Wes Tolman) is fighting a battle with himself as well as with his wife, Beatrice (Amber Lageman), and niece (Amy Helms), who craves more independence, especially after she meets new, young, and handsome illegal immigrant Rodolpho (Dustin Babin), who has come to stay with the Carbones with his older, married brother, Marco (Aleksandr Krapivkin) from their poor hometown in Italy. Tolman delivers some of Eddie’s struggle, especially when he turns to neighborhood lawyer Alfieri (Andrew Bosworth) in his attempts to find a way to get Rodolpho out of their lives. And Lageman is convincing as the sharp-eyed, tough-minded Beatrice, who knows there is something wrong about Eddie’s feelings for Catherine.
Babin has the right sort of guileless charm as Rodolpho, whose abilities to sing and sew lead Eddie to mock his manhood, and Krapivkin is affecting as a family man who just wants to work hard to send money home. And when Helms finally erupts in reaction to Eddie’s inevitable betrayals, she delivers, too.
But if this View were played more with an eye to bringing to real life these 20th-century characters than emphasizing its doom-filled ancient roots, we would feel more emotion at the final curtain.
A View from the Bridge continues through Jan. 15 at the Cook Theatre; call 351-8000 or go to asolorep.org for tickets.