Ian Bedford (Eddie), Catherine Combs (Catherine), Brandon Espinoza (Marco), James D. Farruggio (Officer), and Andrus Nichols (Beatrice) in A View From the Bridge, directed by Ivo van Hove at the Goodman Theatre.
The cast of A View From the Bridge, directed by Ivo van Hove, at the Goodman Theatre.
(© Liz Lauren)

Ivo van Hove's sparse presentation of A View From the Bridge, now playing at the Goodman Theatre, comes at its audience fast and hard. Arthur Miller's 1955 American classic has been stripped down and cut to an intermission-free two hours, paced like an action movie that still feels remarkably personal and intimate.

Ian Bedford leads the cast as the Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, whose growing passion for his orphaned niece, Catherine (Catherine Combs), has chilled his marriage to Beatrice (Andrus Nichols). Their home grows even more claustrophobic when Eddie agrees to house Marco (Brandon Espinoza) and Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles), Beatrice's Italian cousins who have arrived in New York illegally to find work. When sparks fly between Catherine and Rodolpho, Eddie is set down a path of obsession and paranoia that tears their family apart.

With tall stature and howling voice, Bedford's Eddie Carbone is a brute fighting his animal instincts, in conflict with himself at every moment. Even his moments of tenderness drip with menace. Far from being overshadowed, Nichols's and Combs's subtle, naturalistic performances shine next to Bedford's bombastic centerpiece. The three actors strike a precise balance when they are onstage together, as tense as any tightrope walk. Espinoza is impressive as the taciturn Marco, who is working to send money back to his wife and three young children, all of whom are waiting for him in his impoverished Italian city. As Rodolpho, Abeles is confident and easygoing in a way that can believably intimidate the hardscrabble Eddie. And Ezra Knight finds weight and truth in the role of Alfieri, the wary neighborhood lawyer who narrates the play.

For Jan Versweyveld's set, the Goodman Theatre has broken its proscenium, placing the Carbones' tenement apartment between two sets of onstage bleachers where audience members are seated like they're watching a boxing match. Both Versweyveld's scenic and lighting design are bright and bare, leaving hardly anything to tell Miller's story except the bodies and voices of the actors. The actors, costumed simply by An D'Huys, are barefoot, which adds a further unsettling intimacy to the family's private affairs. Tom Gibbons's sound design stands in contrast to the minimalism of the visual design elements, with prominent use of sound including lush operatic underscoring.

The climax of this dramatic classic bursts in a moment of magical realism. It's a potentially polarizing move, but an appropriate one. Van Hove's production is a ticking time bomb from its first moments, and its satisfying end is an explosive one.