A VIEW FOR THE BRIDGE DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE

 

Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

 

Although Arthur Miller categorizes A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE as tragedy, it is not tragedy in the classical or Greek sense: it is American tragedy.

 

Greek tragedy involves the concept of harmartia: an error in judgment or basically an honest mistake the goes seriously awry killing people: sometimes many people.

 

Irony also gets tossed into the Greek mix along with the Feta and the Retsina.

 

The protagonist wants to achieve X, he works hard to achieve X, however everything he accomplishes pursuant to X directly contributes to the opposite of X ultimately coming to pass.

 

Oedipus is a prime example: he tries to avoid, like most of us would, marrying his mother and killing his father (it makes for such uncomfortable family reunions and usually means marrying a much older woman).

 

By thinking he can escape the fate revealed by the Oracle of Delphi, the very voice box of Apollo himself, Oedipus is demonstrating hubris.

 

While Christians have original sin, the Greeks had hubris: neither of which seemed to deserve the punishments they commanded.

 

By contrast, Miller's anti-hero is Eddie: a stevedore and Sicilian immigrant trying his best to bring undocumented paesanos ashore in Brooklyn while raising the orphaned daughter of his sister-in-law.

 

The paternalism, magnanimity and generosity he has extended to his adolescent niece have become corrupted: they have transmuted into possessiveness, jealousy and adulterous lust of the mind.

 

The good that Eddie sought to accomplish is not only undone, but it results in his downfall.

 

Eric Burke, perhaps one of Marin County's finest and scariest actors, is ideally cast as Eddie.

 

MR Burke's strong suit on stage seems to be density, obtuseness, stubbornness and visibly responding to his inner voices of demons rather than the imploring outer voices of friends, family, cool reason and collected sanity.

MR Burke's Eddie resolutely grasps a psychological millstone while swirling into the deepening whirlpool of Charybdis, jealousy and madness.

Eddie's reversal of fortune, peripeteia as the Greeks would say, accelerates along with his insanity.

Hallie Frazer, as Beatrice, indisputably has the most complex and strenuous role and she carries it off well.

As the wife of Eddie she runs the gamut from loving, strong, obedient, forceful, vulnerable, tender and sorrowful; all of which she performs marvelously: her transitions are highly credible as she smoothly shifts through all the emotional gears.

Director Cris Cassell has really polished her characters, particularly Eddie and Beatrice.

Michael Orlando is superbly cast as Marco: a pleasant and honorable Siciliano, no oxymoron intended, whom you would not want to cross.

If you have been putting off what is arguably one of Arthur Miller's greatest plays, now is the time to invest.

Surf on over to www.rossvalleyplayers.com or flip open the cell and call 415-456-9555 (not while you are driving however).

DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE

Reviewed by Jeff Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

For those of us who feel a sense of dread, panic or acute separation anxiety when we have misplaced our cell phone, DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE is a clarion wake-up call.

The cell phone was meant to serve mankind: not serve as its ball and chain.

Ironic too, that a communication device should ultimately increase our alienation rather than mitigate it.

As Tyler Durden warns us in FIGHT CLUB, "The things you own, end up owning you."

Although FIGHT CLUB predates the proliferation of cell phones, the warning was as prophetically accurate.

Jean (played by Amy Resnick) is trying to concentrate on her soup and novel in a non-descript, seemingly abandoned, café.

Another customer sits motionless as his cell phone continues to obstreperously clamor for attention.

Jean, for better or for worse, realizing its unresponsive owner has died long before his cell phone batteries did, picks up the orphaned phone and responds to a caller.

Like getting hit by a STAR TREK tractor beam, Jean is tugged into the convoluted vortex of Gordon's dysfunctional world.

As long as Jean is there to answer his cell phone, it seems that Gordon will never entirely expire.

Jean aids and abets this intimation of immortality by never explicitly telling Gordon's callers that he is in fact dead: she buffers them from the truth stating that he cannot come to the phone and that she will take a message for him.

The cell phone drags Jean, who apparently hitherto had no life, into contact with Gordon's mother: the frosty, remote high-brow: MRS Gottlieb.

Jean begins spinning yarns about how much Gordon, a total stranger to her, loved his family.

Writer Sarah Ruhl of VIBRATOR fame, seems to tread lightly on the same theatrical turf as Edward Albee: surreal characters that speak urgent trivial nonsense to each other across broad chasms of familial isolation.

But while Albee is disturbing, Ruhl, at least as performed by the San Francisco Playhouse under the directorship of Susi Damilano, is both funny and enlightening.

Award winning talent rescues this play from nether regions of the kooky, the whimsical, the quirky and quasi-campy.

Joan Mankin who was a virtual Klieg light in California Shakespeare's UNCLE VANYA, turns a petty snob: MRS Gottlieb, into a grand dame; and Bill English, who plays the deceased Gordon, does indeed reach the core of his character—maybe not in the café, but certainly later in the eternal empyrean where cell phone batteries never have to be recharged.

If your life is enmeshed in technology like a mastodon trudging through the La Brae Tar Pits, then this play could serve to excise you, make you laugh, or both.

For tickets embrace technology to surf on over to www.sfplayhouse.org or pick up a cell phone—definitely not a dead man's—and call 415-677-9596.