On one level, it’s tempting to say everything you’ve heard is right. Belgian director Ivo van Hove, whose work was last seen in Chicago here at the Goodman in a Dutch-language reinvention of Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra nearly a decade ago. has similarly revealed new layers of richness in what I’d previously thought of as one of Arthur Miller’s lesser, more dated dramas.
But unlike his Electra, the power in Van Hove’s A View from the Bridge comes not from what he layers onto but what he takes off. Miller’s ’50s-era tale is that of a Red Hook longshoreman (Ian Bedford) whose buried, verboten feelings for the young niece (Catherine Combs) he helped raise are dredged up when his wife’s distant cousins come over illegally from Italy looking for work, and the niece, Catherine, falls for the cousin (Daniel Abeles) that uncle Eddie finds insufficiently manly.
Van Hove stages the entirety of the action in a square enclosure in the center of the Albert Theatre’s stage, hemmed in further by stands of onstage seats on each side. With most of the cast dressed in neutral tones and barefoot, the effect is of characters penned in and constantly stalking one another; only Miller’s one-man Greek chorus, the lawyer Alfieri (Ezra Knight), exists outside of the squared circle.
With a strong cast freed from naturalistic trappings to home in on Miller’s language and intentions—with the set and lighting designer Jan Versweyweld and sound designer Tom Gibbons helping to increase the sense of abnormal, inevitable dread—don’t be surprised when you come away with a breathtakingly new and modern view of a play from generations past.
Goodman Theatre. By Arthur Miller. Directed by Ivo van Hove. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs; no intermission.