If you care at all about great acting, you won’t want to miss Ned Averill-Snell’s performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge, currently playing in a superb production at Tampa Rep. I’ve praised Averill-Snell’s artistry many times in past years, but seldom has he had to contend with the mind-boggling complexities of a character like Carbone. Imagine this: a man fighting the realization that he’s in love with his own niece, tormented by the possibility that his immigrant cousin may take her away from him, consciously committed to a marriage that he’s unconsciously destroying, and justifying all his misbehavior with imagined crimes that he feels called upon to thwart. All these impulses (and a dozen more) aren’t just in the lines Averill-Snell speaks; they’re in every shrug, cry and silence in his remarkable performance. Just watching Averill-Snell’s face, one can find paradoxes, contradictions, crossed wires, turbulence. You’re tempted to hate the guy he’s playing, except you can’t help but feel sympathy for the bearer of such a crushing burden. Most amazing of all: This fellow has good intentions.
It’s not just Averill-Snell that makes Tampa Rep’s View so worth seeing: He’s supported by a terrific cast that includes the impeccable Emilia Sargent as Carbone’s all-too-perceptive wife Beatrice; capable Hannah Anton as his at-first-ingenuous, then increasingly savvy niece Catherine; ingratiating Nick Hoop as the too-trusting young Rudolpho (whom Catherine falls for almost immediately); and splendid Nathan Jokela as Rudolpho’s much-cannier, much-tougher brother Marco. Narrating the play and participating in a few scenes is Michael Mahoney as the dignified lawyer Alfieri, a voice of reason much needed in a world of operatic passions. View is brilliantly directed by C. David Frankel and Megan Lamasney (there are some moments of inspired chaos late in the play that are nothing short of thrilling), and unfolds relentlessly on Lea Umberger’s simple but attractive living room set. (The fine costumes are by Connie LaMarca-Frankel.) Though the play doesn’t have the wider significance of Miller classics Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, the Tampa Rep production finds all its virtues and is plenty satisfying. Eddie Carbone may not be Everyman, but his predicament is nonetheless fascinating.
That predicament begins when Carbone, a longshoreman, takes two “submarines” — illegal aliens — into the home that includes his wife and the orphan Catherine, whom they’ve been raising for years. Catherine is 17, almost old enough to make her own way in the world, and prior to the arrival of the two new men, her relationship with her uncle has been fairly normal. But no sooner does eligible Rudolpho appear than Catherine turns into a flirt, and Carbone doesn’t like it. She falls for Rudolpho and he for her, and next thing you know, Carbone is finding all sort of reasons why his niece should be vigilant. He insists that Rudolpho is only interested in obtaining American citizenship. He claims that Rudolpho is gay and can’t be truly attracted to a woman. He becomes increasingly anxious and irrational and underhanded, and you don’t have to be Freud to see that disaster is coming. Trying to stave off the catastrophe is Beatrice, whose good sense might have some effect if only Carbone still desired her, and Alfieri, who counsels Carbone to give Catherine her freedom. But Carbone ain’t listenin’. And for that matter, neither is Catherine.
Which brings me back to Anton’s acting. I’ve never seen this actress on stage before, so I was unprepared for the great psychological intelligence of her performance. At the outset of the play, she seems rather shallow, simple and obedient, a “good girl” out to please her beloved caregivers. But no sooner does Rudolpho walk into her house than she displays a coquettish side — and all the moves necessary to grab a man’s interest. As Carbone’s attempts at interference become more flagrant, the “good girl” turns into a rebel, apparently knowing in her bones that her romantic attachments are her own business and not her uncle’s. And by the end of the play this young woman has changed tremendously; we’ve seen it happen, and we definitely believe it. But come to think of it, all the main characters evolve in View, and I have to assume that’s the work of directors Frankel and Lamasney, who know that humans — and especially humans under pressure — are always becoming. Actress Anton develops, but so do Sargent, Hoop and Jokela. And of course, Averill-Snell.
So check out A View From The Bridge. And if you know any aspiring performers, buy ‘em a ticket. Call it a clinic: dramatic realism at its most intense. Acting at this level is rare — and too precious to miss.