Bringing Arthur Miller's Greek tragedy to life
WilsonvilleSTAGE to perform "A View from the Bridge" this month
For many people, the name Arthur Miller calls to mind images of a Puritan witch hunt (The Crucible) or the final unraveling of a failed businessman and estranged father (Death of a Salesman).
WilsonvilleSTAGEs latest production a rendering of Arthur Millers A View from the Bridge aims to bring one of Millers lesser-known works to life: the short, tragic story of an Italian American family in a 1950s-era New York.
This play, in my opinion, is Arthur Millers best play, says Terry Kester, whos spent his life in theater and directs the upcoming production. The emotional intensity of the script, he says, is unparalleled by anything else Miller wrote.
In this play all the emotions you can imagine a human being would ever feel are compacted into one story, one play, Kester says.
Kester has wanted to be involved with a production of A View from the Bridge for decades. He saw the play for the first time when he was a young man, and his teenage brother played the character Marco in the production.
The play just gripped me, Kester recalls. Ever since I saw him do it, Ive been wanting to do it.
Although his brother didnt pursue theater as a career, Kester went on to spend his life in the medium, writing, directing, producing and acting in plays around the country. Hes also a teacher, and spent years at North Carolina School of the Arts and American University.
Kester didnt have the chance to stage a production of A View from the Bridge until recently, however. He retired to Wilsonville several years ago and was impressed by the local theater company WilsonvilleSTAGE. For the past four months, he has been working with it to develop A View from the Bridge.
It has proven to be just the production to demand all of Kesters experience and ingenuity to accomplish. Unlike other plays, the difficulty isnt in the scripts overwhelming complexity, but in its simplicity.
Unlike other plays that usually have other layers of whats happening with the characters and everything else, this is pretty much a straightforward journey, Kester says. Its a straightforward journey that you begin to know as audience members is headed toward disaster, toward tragedy a train wreck, and it just wont stop. So its really gut-level dramatic, and very powerful.
That makes for a play that tests actors and crewmembers alike. In its intensity and scope, A View from the Bridge is Millers play that most nearly resembles a Greek tragedy and as with a Greek tragedy, no character emerges unscathed.
Broadly construed, the play has to do with the romance that develops between Rodolfo who is Marcos younger brother and Catherine, who is being raised by her uncle Eddie Carbone and aunt Beatrice. Eddie doesnt approve of the relationship and becomes jealous as it unfolds.
It is Eddie who is at the heart of the plays tragedy. In the WilsonvilleSTAGE production, Eddie is played by Kevin Martin. Martin describes Eddie as a pretty simple guy who, although domineering at times, is essentially a good person.
He has all these things happening that kind of confuse him, and then Rodolfo comes in and kind of brings everything to a head, Martin says.
In addition to having to memorize hundreds of lines Eddie speaks more than almost any other character in the play Martin says that the emotional intensity of his character was challenging.
Trying to bring emotions every night is not easy, he says. I have to be happy about my daughter growing up, I have to be sad about my daughter growing up, I have to be angry about my daughter growing up there is one thing, and I have to bring out all these different emotions in regard to that one thing.
Matt Sunderland, who plays Marco, says that he appreciated the challenge of his character as well. For much of the play, Marco is a reserved older brother to Rodolfo who occasionally intervenes to try to dissipate tensions. After a pivotal moment, however, Marco becomes motivated by a desire for vengeance.
Its such a shift from who he is in the first act to what he becomes at the end. That shift has been a good challenge for me, Sunderland says.
Sunderland and Martin also identify the unusual manner in which the play is to be staged as an additional challenge. It will be performed in the round, and rather than have the audience watch the actors perform on-stage, they will sit in a circle around the set as the actors perform. And the production will feature a minimalistic set and minimalistic costumes that mirror the minimalism of Millers script. All the emphasis is intended to be on the actors, whose performances are expected to draw the audience into the production.
Its tough, Martin says. Ive seen plays in the round before, but Ive never done one. Ive done improv work before, and its kind of like that but unlike improv, you have to hit the lines exactly.
Eva Bradford, who plays Catherine, says that understanding the growth her character experiences over the course of the play has been most challenging. She has different mannersims, different vocal inflections, even shes very different because of what she goes through, Bradford says.
For Bradford and the other actors, however, these difficulties have been what makes the play a pleasure to perform.
I come to rehearsal, and I dont even notice how much time Im spending here, just because I love being here, Bradford says.
Viewers of the play can expect to enjoy themselves as well. But Kester frames the ideal audience experience as one that, through its intensity, provides a singular sort of experience.
Its probably one of the most intense dramas you can see, Kester says. Its the kind that provides catharsis, which most theater doesnt do anymore. That catharsis for me is the foundation of theater that idea that you go to the theater, and you see something thats dynamic enough that you get enough catharsis, enough education, enough feeling, that you look at yourself, and say Who am I? And if we achieve that, then thats the goal.
What: WilsonvilleSTAGEs A View from the Bridge
When: Feb. 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, and March 3, 4 and 5 at the Wilsonville Frog Pond Grange; Feb. 23 at Trudys Living Room in Wilsonville; Feb. 24 at the Charbonneau Country Club; March 2 at Meridian United Church of Christ in Wilsonville; and March 1 at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. All are open to the public except for the Coffee Creek show. Curtain goes up at 7:30, except at the Charbonneau venue, which starts at 7 p.m.
ADMISSION: Price is $12 for adults and $10 for students. On Feb. 18 and 25 all military veterans will be admitted for free; tickets must be obtained at the door.
MORE INFO: For more information, visit wilsonvilletheater.com.