The Play this time:
“A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller
A View from the Bridge was written by Arthur Miller in 1955-6 and set in 1950s America, in an Italian American neighborhood near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The play was originally a one-act verse drama, but Miller modified it to the two-act American realist prose drama that has now become a modern classic. The play employs a chorus and narrator in the character of the Italian-American lawyer, Alfieri. Eddie, the tragic protagonist, has an improper love of and obsession with Catherine, his wife Beatrice's orphaned niece, and therefore does not approve of her courtship with Beatrice's cousin Rodolfo who has arrived in New York with his brother Marco as an illegal immigrant. Gradually, the situation spirals out of Eddie’s control, and he is unable to cope with his jealousy, leading to inevitable conflict with Marco and Rodolfo. In the context of Sicilian émigrés to New York and the violent history associated with their struggle for survival in a W.A.S.P. (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant)-dominated society, the play’s tragic denouement relates the play to past and present immigration issues. Itexplores one of Miller’ s recurrent dramatic themes, critiquing the big lie of the American Dream, with its misleading claims in respect of equality of race, gender, religion and class in U.S. society. In that sense, the subject-matter appears both prescient and timeless. Given today’s rising levels of racist and gender-related abuse and discrimination in the United States - actively promoted by its current divisive and mendacious demagogue President - the play’s themes remain as topical as ever.
Miller’s dramatic output of the late 1940s and 1950s attracted the attention of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee led by Republican senator Joseph McCarthy, but when he was brought before the H.U.A.C. in the same year as A View from the Bridge he refused to capitulate to its bullying or ‘name names’ of alleged ‘fellow-Communists’. His interest in writing about the world of the New York docks originated with an un-produced screenplay that he developed with Elia Kazan in the early 1950s, entitled The Hook - the part of Brooklyn where the action is set - that addressed corruption on the Brooklyn docks. Kazan later directed On the Waterfront, which dealt with the same subject. Miller said that he heard the basic account that developed into the plot of A View from the Bridge from a lawyer who worked with longshoremen (the American word for dockers/ dock labourers), who related it to him as a true story. The play has been chosen as this month's reading because the critically acclaimed NT Live stage production from London, directed by Belgian director Ivo van Hove and starring Mark Strong as Eddie, is currently being shown in cinemas in Hong Kong. This production takes the play out of its familiar American realist performance mode, in order to emphasise its contemporary relevance.
All welcome, whether as listeners or volunteer readers, but please note that the play has an adult theme.
Participants please print out or download an electronic version of the play for your own use.
Facilitators: Dr Mike Ingham and/or Mr Julian Quail.