September 11, 2017

Before the play: A view from the second row.

IMG_1489

Meade and I drove out to Spring Green last night to see the American Players Theater production of "A View From the Bridge." Here's what the Wall Street Journal theater critic, Terry Teachout, wrote about it a few days ago. Teachout called APT "America's finest classical theater festival, unrivaled for the unfailing excellence of its productions." Teachout hated a 2015 Broadway production of "A View From the Bridge" "flatulent exercise in Eurotrashy gimmickry" and this APT production "a masterpiece of sustained tension" and "of the two best Miller revivals I've ever seen."*
Every aspect of [Tim] Ocel's production is distinguished, not least Takeshi Kata's set, a near-abstract assemblage of wooden warehouse pallets that is appropriately stark and austere. But it is [Jim DeVita, a 23-year company veteran,] who catapults it into the stratosphere. Unless you frequent Spring Green, you probably aren't aware that he is one of America's leading classical actors. Until now, though, I'd never seen him in a purely naturalistic role, and I confess to being just a bit surprised to discover that he can change hats with complete ease. His performance as Eddie Carbone, the hardworking, easy-to-anger Brooklyn longshoreman who harbors an illicit passion for his innocent young niece (Melisa Pereyra), is replete with the same force and focus that he brings to Shakespeare. Had Robert DeNiro chosen to be a classical stage actor instead of a movie star, he might well have given a performance as good as this one.
My picture shows the set before the audience was completely seated. The resonance between the stacks of pallets and the woman's dress is serendipity. We loved the whole cast. I wish APT would put out video clips. I wish I could show you a few random delightful things so you could see that it's not the great fall of the ordinary man Eddie Carbone. If there were clips available, I'd show you Will Mobley (as Rodolpho, one of the 2 newly arrived illegal immigrants who stir the plot) singing "Paper Doll" and entrancing the young niece while giving Eddie the "heebie-jeebies." The play isn't just about Eddie's sexual attraction to his niece (Catherine). It's also about Eddie's intense homophobia toward Rodolpho. As Eddie puts it, "he ain't right."

And I'd like a clip of the discussion of sardines (which the immigrants, Rodolpho and Marco had fished for, back in Italy (the year is 1955)):
BEATRICE: Y’know, Marco, what I don’t understand—there’s an ocean full of fish and yiz are all starvin’.

EDDIE: They gotta have boats, nets, you need money.

BEATRICE: Yeah, but couldn’t they like fish from the beach? You see them down Coney Island—

MARCO: Sardines.

EDDIE: Sure. Laughing: How you gonna catch sardines on a hook?

BEATRICE: Oh, I didn’t know they’re sardines. To Catherine: They’re sardines!

CATHERINE: Yeah, they follow them all over the ocean, Africa, Yugoslavia . . .

BEATRICE, to Eddie: It’s funny, y’know. You never think of it, that sardines are swimming in the ocean!

CATHERINE: I know. It’s like oranges and lemons on a tree. To Eddie: I mean you ever think of oranges and lemons on a tree?

EDDIE: Yeah, I know. It’s funny. To Marco: I heard that they paint the oranges to make them look orange.

MARCO—he has been reading a letter: Paint?

EDDIE: Yeah, I heard that they grow like green.

MARCO: No, in Italy the oranges are orange.

RODOLPHO: Lemons are green.

EDDIE, resenting his instruction: I know lemons are green, for Christ’s sake, you see them in the store they’re green sometimes. I said oranges they paint, I didn’t say nothin’ about lemons.
_____________________

*  The other production Teachout refers to is Mike Nichols's 2012 Broadway version of "Death of a Salesman" (which starred Philip Seymour Hoffman).

65 comments:

Ralph L said...

I hope it lost something in text.

Ralph L said...

Fatphobic phonebooth

Darrell said...

No My Dinner With Andre, surely.

Now I Know! said...

Ann, I am surprise you attended this production. You do understand that it was done so as a critique of the "Age of Trump"? Or did you miss that?

Ralph L said...

You do understand that it was done so as a critique of the "Age of Trump"?
Isn't everything?

From the photo, I'd say it's closer to the Age of Frump.

Now I Know! said...

Eddie represents the confused, immorally self-serving Trump supporter, who in the end reaps what he sows.

Laslo Spatula said...

Did the set designer miss the opportunity to have two stacks of pallets next to each other to evoke the World Trade Center?

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"I hope it lost something in text."

I heard it performed, so I know what can be done with these lines, but still, I'm disappointed in your lack of ability to imagine the lines performed by great actors. You really have no idea how actors would bring every word of this to life?

Laslo Spatula said...

"You really have no idea how actors would bring every word of this to life?"

The problem is I can hear what bad actors would do with it.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, I am surprise you attended this production. You do understand that it was done so as a critique of the "Age of Trump"? Or did you miss that?"

1. Why would I avoid a play because it may relate to things I might have opinions about?

2. What opinion of Trump of mine do you think this play ran counter to?

3. I went to see the play on the strength of Teachout's review (and my familiarity with APT). I avoided reading anything about the plot and I didn't remember knowing anything.

4. At most, the play had some material illegal immigrants presented from the point of view of illegal immigrants, but the story was internal to one family and a Brooklyn Sicilian subculture that was extremely averse to ratting people out. It wasn't about government policy. And you don't even know my opinion of current immigration policy. It's a topic I have avoided on this blog! And you also don't know the extent to which I might like or dislike Trump. That's another thing I'm not big on talking about here.

5. To sit at that play and think about how it relates to Trump would be sheer idiocy. Did you see it? I hope you just stayed home and read the internet.

Darrell said...

I prefer Bojack Horseman.

Now I Know! said...

Ann, I did not write in my comment anything about your "opinion of Trump." Please read what I wrote closer.

Michael K said...

"Ann, I am surprise you attended this production. You do understand that it was done so as a critique of the "Age of Trump"? Or did you miss that?"

Another blank profile troll. How's the pay ?

Now I Know! said...

Of course Eddie is not a Trump figure. Once again, read my second comment to this thread.

Why am I not surprised that you totally missed the universality of the play and how it even provides a critique of our country today? Do you think APT chose this play serendipitously?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Now I Know! said...

Please read what I wrote closer.

You might do better to explain why you would be surprised that the Professor would attend a play that was done as a critique of "The Age of Trump". ( Assuming that it was done as such, I am not expressing an opinion of such. )

It seems to me that such surprise would be related to your perception of the Professor's opinion about Trump. But you are welcome to clear up that misconception.

Now I Know! said...

Ann, think of Miller's other great works from this period (The Crucible, Salesman) do you think they are just plays about the inner workings of families and tight knit communities?

You wrote "but the story was internal to one family and a Brooklyn Sicilian subculture that was extremely averse to ratting people out."

If that is all you got from the play then you truly missed out on its full artistic richness.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Novels and movies tend to celebrate ordinary people, whoever they might be, and therefore face the problem of making the conversation of ignorant people sound interesting and/or funny. The Sopranos was pretty great at this. Odds and ends, usually mis-remembered, from documentaries on TV. It can easily become something for intellectuals, always striving to show their knowledge, to mock: at least I know more than that.

n.n said...

The homosexual (i.e. mental anomaly) orientation represents one extreme of the transgender spectrum disorder. Qasi-transsexuals (i.e. mental and physical anomalies) are at the other extreme. And bisexuals and variations of gender confusion (e.g. misogynist, misandrist) are distributed throughout.

AllenS said...

I haven't seen a live telephone booth since I don't know when.

Now I Know! said...

Ann, what is "sheer idiocy" is to leave that play and think it is just a story about the inner workings of one family and community that existed over a half century ago.

Michael K said...

The troll is working hard this morning. Look at Me ! Look at Me!

janetrae said...

IF you haven't seen it already, I commend APT's Cyrano to you. I saw it earlier this summer and it was great. I love that company. I have been going to see plays there for 30 years.

Ann Althouse said...

Commenters without profiles...

Etienne said...

Brooklyn always gets a bad rap. It's the kind of place people think about when they are trying to clean their shoes soles using a curb.

tcrosse said...

Commenters without portfolio...

Jeff Gee said...

Arthur Miller usually does nothing for me (the epilogue of “Death of Salesman,” the ‘attention must be paid’ graveyard scene, just seems horrendous to me— it’s like being nudged in the shoulder by a drunk who just told you a joke and keeps going “Ya get it? Ya get it?”). But this sardines and oranges thing is great.

Sardine-wise, it’s worthy of comparison to Frank O’Hara’s great sardine poem, Why I Am Not a Painter.

Orange-wise, it’s up there with the pinochle game in “Awake and Sing.” Moe is rooting around the apartment looking for oranges, but there aren’t any oranges, and so he and Jacob start playing pinochle. Jacob puts on a Caruso record. Moe can’t stop thinking about oranges, tho.

MOE (dealing): Ever see oranges grow? –I know a certain place, one summer I laid under a tree and let them fall right in my mouth.

[Off, the music is playing as the card game begins]

JACOB: From “l’Africana”… a big explorer comes on a new land... “O Paradiso.” From act 4, this piece. Caruso stands on the ship and looks on a Utopia. You hear? “Oh Paradise! Oh Paradise on earth! Oh blue sky! Oh fragrant air— ”

MOE: Ask him does he see any oranges.

I would have said Arthur Miller couldn’t approach that on his best day, but I guess he could.

Now I Know! said...

"Commenters without profiles..."

Maybe you should focus less on the superficial and more on the content?

n.n said...

Homophobia, like other progressive euphemisms, has been grossly and with opportunity micharacterized. Homophobia is the fear or hate of the transgender/homosexual orientation and associated liberal excess to misrepresent what it is, what it is not, and why it should either be normalized, tolerated, or rejected. This condition is common to people who deny individual dignity (e.g. diversity) or intrinsic value (e.g. pro-choice) of human life.

Ann Althouse said...

"Orange-wise, it’s up there with the pinochle game in “Awake and Sing.” Moe is rooting around the apartment looking for oranges, but there aren’t any oranges, and so he and Jacob start playing pinochle...."

Thanks!

For some reason it made me think of the dialogue about oranges in "It's a Gift" (one of my favorite movies):

Amelia: Harold, I want one thing settled. If you get any money from your Uncle Bean, you are not going to buy an orange ranch with it.

Harold: Oh, no, no, no, no.

Amelia: Don't try that innocent look with me. We need things in the house. I haven't a STITCH to my back! The children need clothes. And we should have a car...I don't know where you get the idea you can make money raising oranges when you can't even run a corner grocery store.

Harold: [distractedly salting his food] I know a lot about raising oranges.

Amelia: What are you so nervous about? You haven't eaten a bite.

Harold: I'm not hungry.

Amelia: Well, that won't be worth eating if you put any more salt on it.

Harold: Oh, no, no, no, no. [picks up roller skates] How much did it cost to fix these skates?

[The eight o'clock whistle blows; Harold retreats to the kitchen]

Amelia: Wait, I'm not through with you. Now I KNOW you've got something on your mind. You're CONSTANTLY doing things behind my back and I know nothing about them till you're in some sort of a SCRAPE and I have to get you out. Remember that scheme to revive the celluloid collar you had a couple of years ago? Well, THAT was going to make us a fortune. WHERE is it? Now you've got an orange ranch on your mind. Well, nothing will come of it. You're not going to drag me and the children across this country, away from friends and relatives. If any money comes into this family, I'M going to handle it and put it to some practical purpose. And THAT'S that...

Ann Althouse said...

"The problem is I can hear what bad actors would do with it."

And that's why it's so hard to read plays.

I like getting the script after I've seen the play. There were some things in the play that I didn't get enough time to think about as they flew by or where something said at one point recurs later. For example, with "A View From the Bridge," the lawyer (who's sort of a narrator) ends the play in a way that refers back to something in the beginning that I couldn't remember word for word.

In the beginning: "I only came here when I was twenty-five. In those days, Al Capone, the greatest Carthaginian of all, was learning his trade on these pavements, and Frankie Yale himself was cut precisely in half by a machine gun on the corner of Union Street, two blocks away. Oh, there were many here who were justly shot by unjust men. Justice is very important here. But this is Red Hook, not Sicily....And now we are quite civilized, quite American. Now we settle for half, and I like it better."

In the end: "Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory—not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be! And so I mourn him—I admit it—with a certain . . . alarm."

Quaestor said...

Ann, think of Miller's other great works from this period...

*Now I Know!" is apparently one of those dilettant critics who must impose political interpretations on everything, which is a very Marxist mentality one might add.

Those who can only see "The Crucible" as a metaphor of the HUAC forget that witches are mythical.

Now I Know! said...

I did see this APT production--BEFORE the widely shared WSJ review and it becoming a hot ticket...

rcocean said...

I wonder how much Miller knew of Italians and what *they* thought of his play?

I'm surprised Teachout had such a positive opinion, since he didn't seem to have much love for Arthur Miller cf: his write-up when Miller died. Or maybe I'm getting Roger Kimball mixed up with Teachout.

The most common criticism of Miller is that he was always trying to be poetic - and failing.

Etienne said...

tcrosse said...Commenters without portfolio...

Commenters without assets...

Ralph L said...

Remember that scheme to revive the celluloid collar
And wax the ceiling perfectly

rcocean said...

A lot of people love Miller. I never understood the fuss.

Now I Know! said...

Of course The Crucible is not just commentary on HUAC. Claiming so would be just as dumb as claiming it is only about the inner workings of a tight knit community from four hundred years ago.

Ann Althouse said...

Like "The Crucible," "A View From the Bridge" relates to the HUAC hearings, but it's about naming names. But in the play, it's not about a person put under pressure by the govt to name names. The character in the play is under no pressure from the govt and rats a guy out to get rid of him for personal reasons.

Ann Althouse said...

"A lot of people love Miller. I never understood the fuss."

I came of age during the period when the educated elite looked down on Miller. It was considered unsophisticated to like him.

Ralph L said...

I saw Ibsen's "Ghosts" when I was young and thought it very clunky and unsubtle, but it was probably edgey in its day. Do we necessarily catch up to the avant garde? That doesn't bode well for society.

rcocean said...

"The crucible" is play about puritans falsely accusing people of being witches.

It was written when Liberals were accusing Republican Joe McCarthy of being on a "Witch hunt" for communists and falsely accusing innocent people.

Like most of Miller, its not subtle.

rcocean said...

"I came of age during the period when the educated elite looked down on Miller. It was considered unsophisticated to like him."

So, what's happened? Did the educated elite become less sophisticated?

Quaestor said...

Ann, what is "sheer idiocy" is to leave that play and think it is just a story about the inner workings of one family and community that existed over a half century ago.

Only a sheer idiot could not find a play about inner workings of a family and community that existed over half a century ago interesting if the play were well-written and well-executed.

I wonder if "Now I Know!" has ever seen Richard III. That's a play about the inner workings of one family (the Plantagenets) and one community (England) that existed over five centuries ago. How does one extract an anti-Trump message from that one? Surely it would be uninteresting if a director failed to make a connection between the Gloucester drowning Clarence, the rightful heir, in a vat of Malmsey... I know! I know! Trump usurped the White House from the rightful heir and Hillary drowned herself in Chardonnay!

Michael K said...

"Like most of Miller, its not subtle."

I saw "My son, My son" a few years ago staged and it is anything but subtle.

Ann Althouse said...

"Only a sheer idiot could not find a play about inner workings of a family and community that existed over half a century ago interesting if the play were well-written and well-executed."

Exactly. It's probably THE best subject matter for a play

"How does one extract an anti-Trump message from that one?"

You dress up the Richard III actor with a Trump wig and have him walk around like that. That's what was done with "Julius Caesar" this summer. It gets some press, but what a distraction watching the play. It's a subject you can talk about afterwards maybe: How are the characters in "Julius Caesar" in some ways analogous to political figures of the present day? And (worse): What lessons does "Julius Caesar" teach us about how to deal with our own political problems? More honestly: If you hate Trump, did you get some fun out of seeing Caesar murdered? (with the follow on question: Wasn't it boring listening to all the lines that weren't about Trump?)

I've only seen Richard III in the theater once. It was back in the 70s (at the NY Shakespeare Theater) and the reviews (if I remember correctly) made much of the connection to Richard Nixon.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quaestor said...

"The crucible" is play about puritans falsely accusing people of being witches.

No, that's the setting. And it's not "Puritans falsely accusing people of being witches," it's about a small clique of girls who for some reason accuse their neighbors of witchery. The accused deny the charges, but from the text, the audience doesn't know the truth of the matter. We assume they are innocent because we have certain assumptions about the nature of things, among these is the belief that witches are mythical. We assume that because our priesthood, scientists and secular scholars, tell us so. None of us regular work-a-days types have the time or the skill to test that assumption. In our culture scientists and secular scholars enjoy authority, and thus we believe them when they tell us there are no witches. In 17th-century Massachusetts, the authorities instructed the people differently. Science was just getting its boots on in 1690 — Newton, the greatest natural scientist since Archimedes, was also an alchemist. Perhaps the witch trials were examples of hysteria. There's evidence for that viewpoint. We've seen hysteria at work in the matter of supposed cases of ritual child abuse reinforced by the pronouncements of authority figures — scientists (well, social scientists) who told us such things happen. Maybe they do, but in the interests of justice, we must assume that they do not except in the light of unambiguous evidence.

It was written when Liberals were accusing Republican Joe McCarthy of being on a "Witch hunt" for communists and falsely accusing innocent people.

True enough, but that's not the half of it. In order to damn McCarthy beyond the grave the cheap-ass simpleton's interpretation of The Crucible has been sold to four generations of middle school kids in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, hence the nonsense spewed by Now I Know! above.

Ralph L said...

If Trump is Richard III, can we get him to disappear Edward V in the tower?

Quaestor said...

You dress up the Richard III actor with a Trump wig and have him walk around like that. That's what was done with "Julius Caesar" this summer.

Blatant topicality is how incompetent directors and ham actors compensate. It's also how people with jejune tastes like to talk about a theatrical evening over cheaply stylish drinks at trendy overpriced bars.

Quaestor said...

I've only seen Richard III in the theater once. It was back in the 70s (at the NY Shakespeare Theater) and the reviews (if I remember correctly) made much of the connection to Richard Nixon.

Assuming the reviewers weren't just bullshitting (a BIG assumption, one must admit) they either slept through the play or slept through the Nixon Administration.

William said...

I'm a commenter without a profile. We prefer the term undocumented commenter. We toil humbly in the penumbra and ask little for our labor save that "our betters" refrain from disparaging us with cheap innuendos and facile stereotypes.

Ralph L said...

Quaestor, updating can also be an improvement. I saw "Beyond the Fringe" in the 70's with "put a paper bag over your head" changed to "climb into your Hefty" in the event of nuclear war.

William said...

Longshoreman has gone the way of watchmaker or blacksmith. Container shipping has made the job obsolete, but the ILA secured some lucrative contracts for their members before the job became obsolete. I don't know if by mid century they were quite the inarticulate and oppressed proles that Schulberg and Miller romanticized. You used to have to have connections to gain membership in the ILA, and it was considered a good job.

Michael K said...

"You used to have to have connections to gain membership in the ILA, and it was considered a good job."

The guy who owned the sailboat in the slip next to mine a few years ago was a longshoreman at LA Harbor. I understand their salaries are around $165,000. His sailboat was bigger and nicer than mine.

There was a strike there about that time because the containers had GPS markers so they could be easily located. The clerks union struck because they wanted to ban use of the GPS markers. It went on for weeks, It badly hurt a lot of truckers who were small businessmen.

Michael K said...

"You dress up the Richard III actor with a Trump wig and have him walk around like that."

A lot of people are unaware that Shakespeare was flattering the Tudors with that play. Since history is no longer taught, few know that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king was not the monster he was made out to be by Shakespeare.

From his sources, Shakespeare inherited a fair amount of historical bias. Most obviously he picked up the enduring ‘Tudor view’ of the Wars of the Roses as a divine punishment somehow earned by the rebellion against natural order that took place when Richard II was deposed. This idea is most keenly felt in Richard II, the three Henry VI plays and, to an extent, Richard III.

And Few historians today would endorse that view of the Wars of the Roses. There was, for example, no 'Lancastrian' red rose used during the fifteenth century wars: the red-rose/white-rose dichotomy was largely invented during Henry VII’s reign in order to fuse the two emblems in one Tudor rose, which would promote the idea of unity restored through dynasty.
Nor was Henry VI quite the saint that Shakespeare makes him out to be - this was another piece of early Tudor propaganda that had seeped into official histories by Shakespeare's day, designed to bolster the reputation of Henry VII's Lancastrian 'ancestor'. Countless other characters, too, are bent out of shape in Shakespeare, not least among them the haughty and ambitious Humphrey duke of Gloucester, whose reputation is heavily sanitised; and the aforementioned Margaret of Anjou, whose name is painted very black.


Some of Shakespeare's history is shaky but few pay any attention to history anymore, especially History majors in college.

William said...

I don't think anyone today would give two figs about Richard III were it not for Shakespeare's play. The play has inspired many people to read up on Richard, who, as Michael points out, was not such an arch villain. The net/net of Shakespeare's play was to increase nterest in Richard and to some extent restore his reputation among those who take an interest in history.

William said...

I'm presently watching the BBC series on Queen Victoria. Victoria is played by Jenna Coleman. Jenna is preternaturally cute and the living embodiment of a Disney princess. The series takes pains to faithfully recreate Queen Victoria's clothing and hairdos. On the actual Queen Victoria those outfits looked frumpy, dumpy, and dour.. Not so with Jenna Coleman. She looks saucy and insouciant in those exact same outfits and hairdos. The past is always something you lie about even when you try to tell the truth.

dustbunny said...

I came of age at the same time as Althouse but I was unaware the intellectual elite looked down on Miller, in fact I thought he was quite highly regarded. I'm curious who she is thinking of.

Ralph L said...

Margaret of Anjou, whose name is painted very black.
But rehabilitated as a ghost in "Richard III," IIRC.

Char Char Binks said...

"I came of age at the same time as Althouse but I was unaware the intellectual elite looked down on Miller, in fact I thought he was quite highly regarded. I'm curious who she is thinking of."

I think he was highly regarded by the elite, but by the elite of the elite.

"So, what's happened? Did the educated elite become less sophisticated?"

No, they always have to test the waters first. It would be embarrassing to like something before you find out if it's certifiably elite enough for your taste, not to mention the political implications. Gotta see which way the wind blows.

William said...

There's a saying that the past is never really past, but that's not quite true. It's the ghosts of the past that we can't escape. They are shadows thrown upon the wall and not the true figures of the past, but we believe in ghosts.......I think a few nude scenes would do the Victoria series a world of good. Some will claim that nudity is not in keeping with the spirit of Victoria and her age, but I beg to differ. How better to dramatize that beneath all that pomp and circumstance, Victoria was but a naked, vulnerable woman. I also think a lesbo scene with one of her maids worth dramatize Victoria's empathy with the working class.

Bad Lieutenant said...

You really have no idea how actors would bring every word of this to life?


To the extent that one does, one doesn't really need the actors or the performance, do one? Unless there will be tits. No matter how well you can imagine tits, seeing them is always a good thing.




Now I Know! said...
"Commenters without profiles..."

Maybe you should focus less on the superficial
and more on the content?

Nah. To paraphrase Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce upon his first acquaintance with Dr. Harold Emerson Winchester the Third, we prefer to avoid the rush and start despising you now. Blank/hidden profile denotes a falser than usual, "burner" account, suitable for abuse, which warns us that your heart is not pure. So we know what to expect from you, which is drivel.

Feel free to prove this heuristic wrong.






Bad Lieutenant said...

Sorry for extra lines, Emerita-technical issue with my mobile browser

RigelDog said...

What I thought after reading this post was, "Thank goodness that is not Althouse's dress."

rcocean said...

Mr. Miller’s steadfast, one might almost say selfless, refusal of complexity, the assured simplicity of his view of human behavior, may be the chief source of his ability to captivate the educated audience. . . . What this audience demands of its artists above all is an intelligent narrowness of mind and vision and a generalized tone of affirmation, offering not any particular insights or any particular truths, but simply the assurance that insight and truth as qualities, the things in themselves, reside somehow in the various signals by which the artist and the audience have learned to recognize each other.3