On a nearly bare stage roped off in red, white and blue, like a patriotic boxing ring, a cultural battle plays out in the home of Eddie Carbone, a domineering Brooklyn longshoreman with a long-suffering wife, Beatrice. The third party in the domestic triangle is their stunning 17-year-old orphaned niece, Catherine, for whom Eddie's unsavory attraction is obvious to all but him. With the sudden arrival of two Sicilian stowaways, brothers and family members who inject themselves into the Carbones small apartment, that triangle turns into a precarious pentagon. Then, when the handsome younger brother takes a shine to the sexy Catherine and she returns his affection, that pentagon implodes.
Set in a Brooklyn tenement, "A View from the Bridge," Arthur Miller's 1955 drama, runs through April 2 at Mountain View's Pear Theatre. Although the Fates and the Furies may be conspicuously absent, this is a classic Greek tragedy, with a working-class everyman as flawed hero and a neighborhood attorney as a one-man Greek chorus. At the outset, the all-knowing Alfieri, aptly played by Brian Levi, lets the tale unfold, warning us that the drama must "run its bloody course." He, like the other players, like the protagonist himself, is powerless against Eddie's demons: possessiveness, an insistence on respect and a pathological need for control. Hanging over this household is the fear that Eddie, or someone else, will commit the unpardonable and rat out the Sicilians to the immigration authorities.
Like many tragedies, "A View from the Bridge," which is based on a true story, begins with an aura of normalcy. The middle-aged Eddie (Geoff Fiorito) is a congenial-enough Archie Bunker type, a decent breadwinner respected by coworkers, and a devoted father figure to his too-affectionate, strawberry blond niece (April Culver). But it doesn't take long to recognize danger. Eddie is antsy, afraid of losing control, afraid of losing Catherine, who is about to embark on a career as a stenographer. Meanwhile, the frazzled Beatrice, brilliantly played by Marjorie Hazeltine, who has the Brooklyn Italian speech patterns and mannerisms down pat, reveals the frustrations of a trapped housewife, determined to please but experiencing little pleasure.
Enter the two Sicilians: Marco, the tough, hard-working older brother (Drew Reitz), bears his own tragedy. To support his wife and three children, one of whom has serious health problems, he leaves the land he loves because there are no jobs. By contrast, the younger brother, Rodolpho, a blond cut-up on the Brooklyn docks, with a penchant to burst into song and dance at the drop of a hat, is determined to become American as quickly as possible. Played by Anthony Stephens, he injects notes of comic relief into this dark drama with an over-animated rendition of "Paper Doll."
This play is a clash of cultures between native-born and immigrant as well as between first and second-generation Americans. Above all, it is Eddie's story, and Fiorito captures the tragic hero's inevitable descent into a hell of his own making.
Given the current political climate, Pear Avenue director Ray Renati sees a contemporary message in the drama that goes beyond forbidden love and illegal immigration.
"Eddie's simultaneously a bully, and a sad victim of his past -- old-fashioned Catholic guilt and shame," he said. "To defy Eddie is to incur his rage. He will make sure that you pay. Donald Trump does the same thing."
If Miller's "Death of a Salesman" epitomizes the American dream gone sour, "A View from the Bridge" reveals the nightmare of decent working-class folk, trapped in trauma. Director Renati, lighting and sound designers Meghan Souther and Will Price, respectively, invite us into that world, and perhaps help us to see similarities with our own. This play is a winner.
What: "A View from the Bridge"
Where: Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View
When: Through April 2, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
Cost: $35, senior and student discounts
Info: Go to The Pear or phone 650-254-1148.