Reviews From the Bridge

The New York revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” which the Missus and I caught in previews, opened this week to rave reviews.

Begin with New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley:

I had wondered if “Bridge” really needed another revival. New York saw a first-rate production only a dozen years ago, directed by Michael Mayer, with Anthony LaPaglia,Allison Janney and the young Brittany Murphy (who died at 32 last year). But this latest incarnation makes the case that certain plays, like certain operas, are rich enough to be revisited as often and as long as there are performers with strong, original voices and fresh insights.

But here’s Brantley on Liev Schreiber, who plays the tragic nothing-like-a-hero Eddie Carbone:

Mr. Schreiber registers changes in emotional temperature with organic physical precision. At one point, maybe 20 minutes into the show, I looked at his face and it had acquired that drawn, stripped look that comes from sleepless nights. There was no doubting that Eddie Carbone was headed for some kind of breakdown, or that Mr. Schreiber had been gently steering you toward this perception since his first appearance.

Mr. Schreiber is such a complete actor that he has often thrown productions into imbalance, highlighting the inadequacy of the performances around him. That is not a problem here. That the excellent stage veteran [Jessica] Hecht holds her own with Mr. Schreiber is no surprise. That [Scarlett] Johansson does — with seeming effortlessness — is.

The surprise, according to Brantley, is this:

In recent years Broadway’s stages have been littered with dim performances from bright screen stars, including Julia Roberts and Katie Holmes. Film actresses as famous as Ms. Johansson tend to create their own discomfort zones onstage, defined by the mixed expectations of fans and skeptics. I was definitely aware of that zone when I saw Keira Knightley in “The Misanthrope” in London recently.

By comparison, Ms. Johansson melts into her character so thoroughly that her nimbus of celebrity disappears. Her Catherine is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, feeling her way down familiar paths that have suddenly been shrouded in unfamiliar shadows.

Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout agrees:

Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance.

About the production overall Teachout says:

It had never occurred to me that you could perform “A View From the Bridge” in a subtle way. Nothing is exaggerated, nothing italicized, nothing blown out of proportion. Instead of being shoved in your face like a pie, the terrible things that happen in the play are simply allowed to happen, the way they do in real life.

Not so, Teachout adds in the same review, with the just-opened “Time Stands Still” (which the Missus and I also caught in previews):

I wish I could say something nice about a play that stars Laura Linney, Alicia Silverstone, Eric Bogosian and Brian d’Arcy James. No can do: Donald Margulies’s “Time Stands Still” is a predictable piece of middle-of-the-road Pulitzer bait that has nothing to recommend it beyond the cast, Daniel Sullivan’s staging and [John Lee] Beatty’s set, all of which are exemplary.

While Teachout thinks “Time Stands Still” is flawed, New York Times emergency-backup theater critic Charles Isherwood thinks it’s “flawless.”

As the Missus says, that’s what makes horse races.

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