The promotional tagline is “Love. Loyalty. Family. Revenge” and that is a fairly pithy summary of the play.
Eddie and Beatrice Carbone are an Italian-American family in Brooklyn. Gavin Rutherford and Jude Gibson both do excellent jobs of emulating the distinctive twang we associate with such families.
Eddie and Beatrice are guardians to Eddie’s niece Catherine, played by Acushla-Tara Sutton. Catherine’s parents are dead and her mother was Eddie’s sister. She’s 17 and debating whether to stay at school or enter the workforce.
Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine are a loving family. They argue, but they are there for each other. Then the family extends as they take in two cousins of Beatrice’s from Sicily. Marco and Rodolpho are illegal immigrants who have come to America as there are no jobs or income back home. Marco has a wife and young children back home. Marco is single. they are played by Alex Grieg and Paul Waggott respectively. The sixth cast member is Christopher Brougham who plays the lawyer and narrator Alfieri.
As with almost all Miller plays, they are dramatic portayals of the tensions within a family. And this has tensions in all directions:
- Eddie’s over-protective attitude towards Catherine goes from paternalistic to creepy
- Eddie and Beatrice’s strained needy relationship
- The blossoming love between Rodolpho and Catherine
- The suspicion that Rodolpho may be more interested in a green card than Catherine, and may not even be that interested in women
- The protective attitude of Marco to Rodolpho
- The Sicilian and Italian attitudes towards family and honour
Susan Wilson directs a very faithful and compelling recital of the Miller play. The 80 minute first half sets the scene, with the tension building slowly, and the 40 minute second half is full of explosive tension, which keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The play was once banned in the 1950s by the UK Lord Chancellor. Today it would not even get a PG rating.
This is a play about passion, and the cast succeed in portraying this. You feel yourself swept into a maelstrom of emotions. You wonder about whether the over-protectiveness is sinister or just inappropriate. The question of Rodolpho’s intentions tease you throughout the play. I suspect if you polled the audience, they would be divided 50/50 on whether he loves Catherine or not.
The play has a dramatic conclusion, yet it also (deliberately) leaves many questions unanswered. If Miller had ever written a sequel set ten years later, I think that would also have become a classic.
This is the 5th Arthur Miller play directed by Susan Wilson. It was an excellent production as good as you’ll see anywhere. A very good night’s entertainment.