Feb 10, 2020
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
The play follows Eddie Carbone (Edward McCloud), a Brooklyn longshoreman who lives with his wife and niece in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. This small family is already in trouble at the start, as we observe that Eddie is quite attached to niece Catherine (Nina Cauntay), perhaps overly so. Wife Beatrice (Mary Delorenzo) notices the bond and privately chides Eddie for it, remarking that she also wonders when he will “treat her like a wife” again.
Enter two of Bea’s cousins from Italy, brothers Marco (Matt Farrell) and Rodolpho (Erik Weiss), illegal immigrants hoping to find work with Eddie on the docks. Marco, quiet and strong, wants to send money back to his family at home, but Rodolpho, blonde, handsome and light-hearted, hopes to become a citizen and a professional singer. It doesn’t take much to see the sparks fly between Catherine and Rodolpho, which means Eddie and Bea see them too, instigating conflict between Eddie and the young Italian.
Local lawyer Alfieri (Joe Winkler) provides narration, framing the story and adding his own sense of foreboding as Eddie seeks legal advice. Alfieri and all of us can see the train wreck coming, but we’re powerless to prevent it, just as Eddie seems to be. The last section of the play recalls Greek tragedy, relentless and wrenching to watch, powerful in its portrait of the wages of obsession and compulsion.
The original one-act version did poorly on Broadway in 1955, prompting Miller to revise it into a more traditional two-act play, which became a huge worldwide hit. However, an acclaimed 2015 minimalistic production by Danish director Ivo van Hove excised the intermission and turned the play back into a one-act, paring it down to its bones, heightening the mounting tension and feeling of inexorable fate.
The 6th Street Playhouse staging follows van Hove’s model and quickens the play’s pace, paring it down to ninety minutes. It seems Miller had the right idea initially, as the one-act structure keeps the action tight and fraught with suspense.
Uneven acting mars this production, and there’s far too much shouting throughout in place of needed intensity. Delorenzo makes a believable Beatrice, and Cauntay does well as the sweetly innocent niece oblivious to Eddie’s true feelings. McCloud suitably portrays the coarse common man, but hangs the character on unremitting anger, making Eddie too one-dimensional. Weiss utterly convinces as Rodolpho.
Scenic design by director Jared Sakren and Martin GIlbertson evokes a rough, spare world with dark wood tones and the confinement of a small platform, but the scenic effect at the end unnecessarily confuses. April George’s lighting design creates beautiful atmospheric visuals. Costume design by Meredith Slater does fine for the men but is vague on period with the women’s outfits.
It’s a chance to get acquainted with a true classic in American theatre, and the run has been extended due to demand.
Presented by 6th Street Playhouse
Through Feb. 23, 2020
Thu at 7:30pm, Fri/Sat at 7:30pm,
Sun at 2:00pm
Tickets: $18-29; Senior, Under-30, and Group discounts
Photos by Eric Chazankin
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