Miller’s tale of clashing cultures
The role of Eddie Carbone is one ofthe most coveted male roles in theatre, along with Shakespeare’s Richard III and Tennessee Williams’ Stanley Kowalski.
He has been played by Van Heflin, Richard Harris and Anthony Quayle and this month Wellington’s Gavin Rutherford will bring him to life at Circa Theatre in Arthur Miller’s masterpiece A View From the Bridge.
The metaphorical bridge is the link between contrasting races, cultures, languages and codes.
The Carbone’s have emigrated to Brooklyn, New York where Eddie supports his family and his orphaned niece, working as a longshoreman on the waterfront.
Eddie is honour-bound to shelter new Sicilian immigrant family members, but he can’t handle a growing attraction between one of his guests and his niece.
Director Susan Wilson said Carbone is caught up in two rule systems, the United States penal code and the Sicilian code of honour.
Although A View From the Bridge is set in 1955 New York, its themes and Miller’s evocative script transcend time and place, Wilson said.
The same situations seem to keep arising.
The Sicilians had fled Italy and poverty, seeking a better life, just as Syrians, Iraquis and Afghans were doing today, she said. With the new life comes an alien culture.
It is the fifth Miller play Wilson has directed.
She was fascinated by Miller’s refined and evocative scripts.
‘‘These plays, where fashions might change and society memes might change, they gather irony,’’ she said. ‘‘Have we come anywhere? Have we learned anything.’’
The nuanced script looks at working class American society, legal systems and codes of behaviour but above all it is, like all Miller’s plays, primarily a story of family relationships with a big love story at its heart.
There are questions over Eddie’s relationship with his wife, Beatrice, and an apparently incestuous fascination with his niece which leads him to an overprotectiveness and jealous rage.
‘‘It’s a family theme,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘ I don’t think this is necessarily out of the ordinary – it’s just something that happens in families all the time.’’
Miller wrote the story at a time when his own marriage to Mary Slattery was disintegrating and Marilyn Monroe was arriving on the New York scene to further strain the already frayed relationship.
The work was originally written in one- act for Broadway and Miller re-wrote it in two-acts for the West End version, which is to be staged at Circa.
Italian has a comparatively limited vocabulary compared to English, and its speakers are more likely to use colourful metaphorical language to express themselves.
Miller was very good at putting that into the play, particularly to make the setting quickly clear.
‘‘Originally it was written in verse and some of that lyricism remains,’’ Wilson said.
A View From the Bridge opens at Circa Theatre on July 19.
It also features Jude Gibson, Christopher Brougham, AcushlaTara Sutton, Paul Waggott and Alex Greig.
Happy families: Susan Wilson, director of A View from the Bridge, with cast members Acushla-Tara Sutton, left, Gavin Rutherford and Jude Gibson.