“I want my respect!” insists Eddie Carbone continually—and ambiguously. Sadly for him, but thrillingly for audiences since 1955, when Arthur Miller’s magnificently crafted play premiered, Miller’s protagonist Eddie has no idea what respect means nor how to earn it.
Eddie lives in Brooklyn with his well-worn wife, Beatrice, and her sister’s 17-year-old daughter, Catherine. Beatrice’s two young male cousins are arriving from Italy, illegally, to stay with the Carbones until the two can find enough work to support themselves and send money home. Catherine becomes sweet on one of them, unlocking a variety of previously suppressed undercurrents.
Under the co-direction of Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, the script’s crushing emotionality quietly settles over the audience, leaving us shaken and saddened for Eddie’s inability to handle what could have been a wonderful life. Only a few moments of direction don’t ring true: Choreographed fights are too timid, particularly considering the proximity of the audience, and recorded music playing over the last lines of dialogue distract from rather than enhance the pathos of the story. Otherwise, this is a thoughtful, measured, well-rehearsed production, from casting through the faded wallpaper.
Playing Eddie, Vince Melocchi is stunningly good—truthful and tightly lidded, so the actor swallows Eddie’s tears and earns the audience’s affection rather than bawling histrionically and demanding it. Fox and Jackson have cast an everyman rather than a matinee idol, which makes Eddie’s romantic inclinations frighteningly real rather than cartoonish.
Lisa Cirincione has cut Catherine out of cloth of another time. The character has the energy, joy, and naïveté of a 1950s teen. Melissa Weber Bales makes a lovely, unappreciated Beatrice—once a pretty girl just like Catherine, now a frustrated, exhausted, housebound wife.
Miller enhances the Greek tragedy of his tale with a Greek chorus in the single person of local lawyer Mr. Alfieri. The craft with which Robert Lesser handles the role establishes the production’s tone from the outset. This is top-quality acting, at its apex when Lesser and Melocchi share a scene in Alfieri’s office.
The play takes place on Staci Walters’s and Jeffery P. Eisenmann’s extraordinarily well-designed, well-built set. The construction is solid (slammed doors don’t shake the walls), the brickwork looks real, and that aged wallpaper is a miracle of either savvy shopping or artistic distressing.
July 6, 2013
June 29–Aug. 25. 703 Venice Blvd. Street parking or free parking behind the theaters. There is wheelchair access. Thu.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 3 pm. $20-28, group rates available. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express welcome. (310) 822-8392.