I first fell in love with Arthur Miller for all the wrong reasons, I will admit that. It probably had more to do with the movie Hocus Pocus than it did with The Crucible (although that 1996 adaptation with Winona Rider certainly sealed the deal), but my interest still culminated in a trip east to visit Salem, Massachusetts with my ever patient mother and ever adventurous sisters the summer I was sixteen.
We did the ghost walk, we toured the House of Seven Gables, and we saw the (claimed) pile of rocks under while Giles Corey famously muttered 'More weight!' as he was being crushed to death. It was awesome. (See, I have a dark side too. It's not all flowers and sunshine over here in Sarahland.)
When I discovered that Miller was also romantically linked to none other than Marilyn Monroe, my swooning reached new heights. I read Death of a Salesman shortly thereafter, and a few of his short stories, but, alas, my love quickly switched to boredom upon realizing that all of his stories weren't about witch hunts. My sixteen year old interest then shifted, I believe, the more racy Miller-- Henry Miller-- and his dear Anais Nin, blushing all the while.
Now that you know a sliver of my own literary history (if you are still reading this post, bless you), I suppose I will get to my point: A View from the Bridge. A View from the Bridge is what I would like to talk about today. This Arthur Miller play hit Broadway with a bang due to its young starlet, Scarlett. I'm also curious if Katie Holmes had anything to do with it-- would anyone have seen All My Sons without Mrs. Cruise along for the ride? And would Broadway have lit another Miller aglow without the financial success of All My Sons? I digress. Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber, and Jessica Hecht (WHO PLAYED SUSAN ON FRIENDS! ONE OF MY FAVORITE SMALL ROLES EVER!) took on this doosey of a play with vigor.
I attended the show early last week with Allison (before the art madness began), in lieu of her actual date, JP. (Thank you, JP, for the ticket!) We sat in the first row mezzanine, my very favorite spot to see theater, and ate up this uncomfortable tale of family, passion, and regret.
Liev Schreiber rocked this role. So well, in fact, that I cannot remember him as anyone without a strong Brooklyn accent and a nervous, snapping anger. His gruff demeanor was a nice contrast to the script itself, which felt slightly Greek in its approach. It opened with a classically thought monologue by a secondary character and a held brief, yet steady chorus to bookend the tale.
I can't say that it was the best play I've ever seen, not even the best I've seen so far this year. I will argue the set design, the movement, and even ScarJo's acting. It was too obvious; too little; too much. But what this play succeeded in, it succeeded well. The story made us physically uncomfortable, to the point of squirming and covering our eyes. The tension was incredibly felt, and we left with a rock lodged somewhere between our stomach and our heart. I haven't felt that since a small production of Macbeth that I saw in North London at the Almeida Theater with Simon Russell Beale-- I left that show angry and upset, hating the play so much that I knew it had indeed worked its intended magic.
This production also brought forth multiple conversations between my girls and I about women and women's historical role in the home. I think it was supposed to have encouraged more talk about immigration, incest, jealousy, and morality, but whatever. We talked about women. We talked about how few options we, as a sex, had in early America and how very dependent we were on husbands just one hundred years ago. We wept for Beatrice, Hecht's character, who must have feared her husband beyond belief. Yet, we didn't blame her for sticking with him, how could we?
This show closes soon, this week maybe. See it. But go for the right reasons-- not because you have a strange schoolgirl fascination for witches, or because you wanted to see ScarJo's curves in person, like I did. Go for the brilliant and classic tragedy that Miller intended. You will not be disappointed.