Venue: Little Theatre, University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 7:30pm Tues to Sat to 28th May 2011
Duration: 2 hours including interval
Tickets: Adult $25/conc $20/FTO $15
Bookings: 8303 5999 or http://www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild/booking
The Guild’s latest production is John Graham’s first time as director for them and, if this is anything to go by, hopefully it will be the first of many. Arthur Miller’s play is based on a true story and underwent a revision from a less than successful one act play to become the powerful two act play that we know today.
The bridge of the title, of course, is the Brooklyn Bridge that crosses the river from near the Red Hook community in lower working class Brooklyn, where the play is set, to the high class area of Manhatten.
The central characters are Eddie Carbone, his wife Beatrice and their niece Catherine, the daughter of Beatrice’s deceased sister, who lives with them. Eddie is a longshoreman, one of those men lucky enough to have a job in the tough times of post war America.
Alfieri, a lawyer whom Eddie consults for advice several times during the play, even though he eventually ignores it, also acts as a narrator, filling in gaps and moving the play forward at intervals, linking the scenes like a Greek chorus.
Eddie is happy with his life at the start of the play, but that happiness is being disturbed as Catherine becomes a woman. At the beginning of the play she is studying a secretarial course but, being advanced in her course and the head of her group, she has already been offered a well paid job with a plumbing firm, with permission from the school to return to take her final examinations without needing to attend any more classes.
Eddie’s temper has a hair trigger and he is set against her leaving, especially as he sees plumbers and the location of the office as being little better than his own job. He insists that he wants better for her. Beatrice argues that he cannot keep Catherine at home under his strict control forever as she is no longer a child.
He reluctantly agrees, but worse is to come. Two of Beatrice’s Sicilian cousins are due to arrive. They are illegal immigrants and it has been arranged that they will stay with Eddie and Beatrice and he will help them to get work until they are able to support themselves and move out. Marco is married with three children and is intending to work to send money home to his wife and children in Italy. Rodolpho is single and plans to stay in America permanently, buying a motorcycle and living the American Dream. Until they arrive and settle in Eddie was happy to have them stay with him and Beatrice, but that soon changes.
Much to Eddie’s dismay, Catherine is instantly attracted to Rodolpho and they begin going out together, eventually saying that they plan to marry. Eddie insists that Rodolpho’s interest in Catherine only extends to marrying her to get citizenship. Eddie’s intense anger surfaces again, violence barely restrained. Rodolpho is a platinum blonde, sings, sews, cooks, dances, jokes, is sexually ambiguous, never really confirms or denies his intentions in marrying Catherine and is, in every way, everything that Eddie is not.
When Catherine and Rodolpho announce that they intend to marry immediately, when his orders and pleading fail Eddie takes action to prevent it, telephoning the immigration service anonymously and reporting the two brothers, who are promptly taken away to be deported to Italy. Two other ‘submarines’ (illegal immigrants) are staying with the Lipari family upstairs and they, too, are taken away. With Marco accusing Eddie of reporting them, Eddie is reviled by the Liparis and others in the neighbourhood who overhear Marco’s accusations and threats.
Eddie’s thinly concealed incestuous lust for Catherine is finally revealed, although Beatrice was already aware of his feelings, no doubt a part of her motivation for encouraging Catherine to marry Rodolpho and move out. Relationships strain and eventually break down and the brothers return, Rodolpho to marry Catherine, which will give him citizenship and allow him to stay, and Marco seeking revenge on Eddie for forcing him to leave and return to poverty and unemployment in Italy, ruining his family’s future. The ultimate consequences of their encounter are tragic.
Nigel Tripodi portrays Eddie Carbone marvellously, displaying the range of moods and emotions through which the character moves as his world changes around him and his heretofore total control over his life and those in it slips quickly away. Tripodi begins the play presenting Eddie as a strong, happy, confident man and ends it showing us a floundering man, grabbing at straws and lashing out in a feeble attempt to bring his wife and step-daughter back under his influence. Tripodi gives us a masterful performance in this role.
Sharon Malujlo’s nicely underplayed approach to Beatrice works well, giving us a believable portrayal of a browbeaten woman, desperately pretending to his face that she does not see her husband’s shortcomings, inadequacies and bad points, and suffering silently, trying hard to put on a good front. Malujlo’s performance gives us all this and more.
Charlotte Batty presents us with a charmingly naive Catherine who quickly grows in wisdom and confidence when she is faced with the conflicts between her and Eddie that finally drive them apart when it is clear to her that the man she saw as a second father was more than merely overprotective. Batty’s depiction of Catherine’s transition from girl to woman is very well handled. Although Catherine’s growth takes place over a length of time, that period is condensed in the play, leaving Batty to show that drastic change and convey the time that has lapsed in a series of small steps, a difficult task that she makes appear easy.
Lauren Barnes plays the role of Catherine at some performances.
Tom Kontogonis, as Alfieri, the lawyer/narrator, looks and sounds the part in a strong performance, although a little more vocal projection could help as the positioning on the raised section makes him hard to hear at times.
Marcin Holownia’s interpretation of Rodolpho conveys all of that ambiguity that the character demands. There is a level of effeminate behaviour exhibited by Rodolphos, and a lack of clarity about the motives behind his relationship with Catherine. Holownia has picked up on those important aspects of the role and expanded them to create his character, a person of whom we never really manage to get a clear understanding.
Steve Marvanek plays Marco and gives us one of those strong, silent types with not just a physical strength, which he is called upon to demonstrate, but a moral and ethical strength and a good degree of intelligence as well as a great love for his family in Italy. Marvanek shows us all this in his well measured portrayal.
Joshua Coldwell, Geoff Dawes, Domenic Panuccio, Erik Strauts, Kathy Strauts, John Graham and Jack Robins all give strong support in the minor roles. Ben Galbraith’s costume design, Richard Parkhill’s lighting and Ole Wiebkin’s set all add to the ambience of the piece.
The Guild are on a real winner with this one, so book a ticket soon, before it is over.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.