Westfield Community Players once again demonstrated its dedication to producing quality theater experiences for its audiences with their most recent production of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge."
The audience is met upon entering the auditorium with a very subdued set with a surprisingly splendid rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge set back within the confines of the set which is often dimly lit throughout the play keeping the audience ever mindful that this is "Red Hook", Brooklyn…a unique element of the set keeping the symbolism Miller had for the "Bridge" as being the bridge between the "old world" of Brooklyn to the "new world" of the Big City.
Arthur Miller's fiercely compelling drama about love, belonging and betrayal, A View from the Bridge centers around Eddie Carbone, an Italian-American longshoreman who lives in Brooklyn with his wife Beatrice and his orphaned 17-year-old niece Catherine. Beatrice's two cousins enter the country illegally seeking a better life in America, and when Catherine falls in love with one of them, Eddie's jealousy erupts in a rage that consumes him, his family and his world.
In the role of Eddie Carbone is A.J. Liana, who appeared as Tony Wendice in WCP's production of "Dial 'M' for Murder last season, has given one of the most memorable portrayals that this reviewer has witnessed. Mr. Liana's ability to move from levels of gentleness to moments of anger throughout the show without losing the essence of Eddie goes to his talent as an actor. Mr. Liana has brought to life the complexities and troubled turmoil that Eddie Carbone is suppose to present. Mr. Liana is well-suited for this part without question.
Newcomer to WCP is Kristina Hernandez who has portrayed the role of Catherine, Eddie's teenage niece who he has raised since she was very young. Miss Hernandez has given a flawless performance. She is perfectly cast in this role. She epitomizes the role of Catherine that keeps the audience ever so focused on her. Miss Hernandez's understanding of this most difficult role is a credit to her command of the stage and acting ability. Watching her grow from a naïve young lady at the top of the show to a woman who desires to live her own life from under the control of Eddie is something that only a truly talented actor can do…and she has done excellently.
Eddie's wife, Beatrice, is played by Andrea Barra. Ms. Barra has given strength to this role unlike I have not seen before. She has been able to convince the audience that she has love for her husband, yet fully knowing of his unnatural feelings towards his niece. Her displayed of her feelings comes across throughout the show as the audience watches her facial expression and movement define her emotions. Having seen Ms. Barra in musicals, Ms. Barra has now demonstrated the she is quite adept at drama. She has made what could have been a supporting role to one of a major leading role.
Lou Savarese, also new to WCP, portrayed Marco, the other cousin of Beatrice, gave what has to be one of the finest performances for a most challenging part. His ability to be appreciative to Eddie for allowing him to reside in Eddie's home, and hold his refrain while Eddie insults his brother Rodolpho, and yet not lose his demeanor with the part leaves this writer to have enjoyed his performance. Mr. Savarese has taken this role and made it large. He truly made Marco the protagonist that he is to be. A difficult task for any actor to do, but Mr. Savarese demonstrated it with ease. During the jail scene, Mr. Savarese gives what is one of the most moving and emotion times of the show. Mr. Savarese's display of feelings during this scene was compelling.
The role of Rodolpho, one of the two illegal immigrant cousins of Beatrice and brother to Marco, is masterfully played by Brian Remo. Mr. Remo has also performed at WCP both in "Dial 'M" and this season's first show, "Abie's Irish Rose". Mr. Remo, by doing this role, has shown he is a remarkable actor and versatile actor going from mystery to comedy and now to drama. This versatility is commendable. Mr. Remo's portrayal of Rodolpho was played with what has to be a clear understanding of character of Rodolpho. It is evident that Mr. Remo analyzed the part of Rodolpho with insight. . Never once did Mr. Reno abuse the role but kept to the essence of the character. Mr. Reno's excellent use of an Italian dialect and dyed blond hair was so true.
A surprising performance was given by Maury Herman, who was recently in "Abe's Irish Rose" opening WCP's season. Mr. Herman is noted for his choreographic talents and musical appearances. This venture in drama hopefully has struck a new chord with him. Mr. Herman was impeccable with the role of Mr. Alfieri, who not only had to act as a narrator for the audience but then come alive as a confidante to Eddie. The scenes between Eddie and Mr. Algiers are warming yet personable. Mr. Herman's closing words left this writer with a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat. Bravo, Mr. Herman!
Rounding out the remaining members of the cast are Peter Curley who has also performed for Westfield, the last memorable performance was that to Prince Igor in Waco's production of Neil Simon's Fools. Mr. Curley's portrayal of Mike, one Eddie's friends, was played with delight as he tells Eddie about how Rudolph is being accepted by the other dock workers. Mr. Curley's "Brooklyn-nose" dialect and mannerism was a necessary break in the drama that Arthur Miller must have had in mind. Even a delightful was Mr. Curley as the 1st Immigration Office and his wit was delightful when he recalled exactly what street his was born on in Brooklyn.
Ken Webb, who made his WCP debut played Louis, was one of the most natural characters on stage for this being his first show. He seemed relaxed and at ease, and into the dialogue. He actually made it appear that he was living at that moment as Louis.
Gregg Melee has appeared several times at WCP. His memorable portrayal as the Rabbi in "Abe's Irish Rose" is a far cry from being an Immigration Office in this show. As with any role it is what you put into it that makes it come alive. Mr. Melee presented himself with commanding authority as a law enforcement official.
Jon Robinson played Tony and also another illegal immigrant. As Tony, Mr. Robinson is the one who is "pieced off" in getting Marco and Rudolph into the country. Mr. Robinson gave a good performance highlighting his role as warning the cousins to be careful.
Kevin Cousin played one of the submarines who only on stage for a short time, really did act as scared and worried some when arrested by the Immigration Officers.
Playing the role of Mr. and Mrs. Lipari were the husband-wife team of Joanne and Steve Lemenille. They last appeared in "Abie's Irish Rose" as Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Cohen, which this writer immensely enjoyed their comedic performances bring down the house every time they appeared on the stage.
The most dramatic scenes during this production are the scenes where Marco challenges Eddie to lift a chair and the ending scene where Eddie and Marco fight. The lifting of the chair by Marco (Lou Savarese) daring Eddie to do the same was breath taking...not only from the point of where Marco sets the chair center stage but the reaction of Eddie when Marco lifts the chair by one hand. Both Mr. Liana and Mr. Savarese truly made this appear that it was happening at that time, for the first time. Bravo!!
The fight scene at the end was outstanding. During this scene Marco has arrived back at the apartment to avenge Eddie for calling the Immigration Department to arrest Marco and Rodolpho. Normally this scene is played with Eddie using just a knife to challenge Marco. But, the director, Mr. Lemenille, also employed the use of bailing hooks. What a unique embellishment of this scene. When the hooks clashed and the sound of metals hitting each other, the audience was in awe. Mr. Savarese and Mr. Liana played it so convincingly that it appeared so real. Wonderful choreography!!
This modern classic was given true-to-life exposure under the able direction of Mr. Steve Lemenille. Mr. Lemenille's directorial talents are quite apparent in this production. His ability to cast, shape, mold and maintain the tragic elements of the characters through these exceptional actors is seen throughout the entire production. Mr. Lemenille never lost sight of the plot. He kept it moving and alive. His use of lighting in the change of scenes set the tone for each dramatic part. His direction and inclusion of bailing hooks in the end fight between Marco and Eddie was masterful, and provocative for the audience. He has kept the depth and emotions ever present. If there ever was a cast that truly represented Miller's concept of the characters he portrayed, this cast fit that bill.