Is there another New York-based actor who can talk tough on-stage better than Liev Schreiber? Watching him in Gregory Mosher’s Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s 1956 drama A View from the Bridge, I was hard-pressed to think of one.
Having acquitted himself manfully of Shakespeare’s A-list (Hamlet, Macbeth, Iago) and achieved mass recognition in movies such as Wolverine, Schreiber a few years ago turned his attention to American- realist ruffians: a politically incorrect DJ in Talk Radio, a ruthless salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross. As Miller’s Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman who is sheltering two illegal immigrants from Italy while nursing an obsession with his 17-year-old niece, Catherine, he gives an intense performance with minimal gesturing: he can do more by glancing up from the newspaper than Scarlett Johansson, as the niece, can achieve with an evening of pleading for her right to marry one of the immigrants, Rodolpho.
Making her Broadway bow, Johansson generates minimal inner life and looks slightly odd with dark hair. Yet she provides a headier dose of theatrical Viagra than did another Broadway debutante, Nicole Kidman, a decade ago in The Blue Room at this same theatre, the Cort.
And just as I feel disinclined to administer Johansson a pummelling as harsh as the one that the pugilistic Eddie inflicts on Rodolpho at one point, so do I feel somewhat protective of Miller’s drama itself. Is Miller’s debt to Greek tragedy clumsy at times in Bridge? Yes. Does his thirst for universality tend toward the imperious? Yes. But his preoccupation with social justice has the ability to sustain an audience’s focus; it will be bracing to see if the new movie version of Bridge, now back on track with a screenplay by Andrew Bovell, can work successfully against the grain of the cynical, unserious, populist mood prevailing in America.
Insisting that concerns of basic justice and honour be paramount, Mosher stages Bridge unfussily. His concept, in essence, is his casting. Fortunately for him, Michael Cristofer, as the lawyer narrator, sounds the right notes of tragic inevitability, and Morgan Spector, as the artistic Rodolpho, makes an impression. ()
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