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Civic Theatre caps season in a banner way
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
June 12, 2014
WAUKESHA - Arthur Miller’s most famous plays are "The Crucible," "Death of a Salesman" and "All My Sons,” but there is another one, which should join the ranks of this impressive triumvirate - "A View from the Bridge," a drama that deserves more recognition than it has gotten thus far.
The Waukesha Civic Theatre’s present splendid production of this lesser-known work should put this searing drama back on the map. It is a powerful, professional rendition that creates a palpable reaction from the audience, leaving us moved and almost breathless.
The play is set in the 1950s when immigration laws were tightening and attitudes toward homosexuality were still very restrictive and judgmental. There was often a sense of loyalty among those who immigrated here from the same country. Those who had obtained citizenship tried to support those who were seeking to become naturalized or to find a better job than was available in their own country.
So the story begins in the household of Eddie Carbone, his wife, Beatrice, and his niece Catherine, whom they had raised after Eddie’s sister died. Eddie is a longshoreman and is devoted to his wife and niece, whom he tends to overprotect, but when he agrees at his wife’s request to temporarily let two Sicilian brothers, Marco and Rodolpho, stay with them while they earn some money and possibly gain citizenship, Eddie’s life changes radically. Eddie didn’t count on Rodolpho falling in love with his cherished niece, and to further complicate matters, he suspected that Rodolpho was gay because he didn’t fit Eddie’s stereotypical male preconceptions.
The drama is structured with a narrator, a lawyer named Alfieri, who serves as a sort of Greek chorus, who at times is a character in the plot and other times is an interpreter of the action. Dave Boxhorn’s style perfectly fits the role.
The tension in the play is generated and sustained by Eddie, so masterfully played by Noah Silverstein. He was mesmerizing, period. I don’t know when I’ve seen a more credible performance anywhere.
Jacqueline Gosz as Beatrice was also compelling. She gave one a sense that she was strong but vulnerable, that she both loved and feared her husband. Catherine, the niece that Eddie couldn’t let go of, was very well portrayed by Gabriella Smurawa. We really felt her conflict when she was forced to choose between Eddie and her new love Rodolpho. When everything explodes at the end of the play, we are not totally surprised, but the very raw moments left us emotionally exhausted, nonetheless.
Rodolpho and Marco are memorably rendered by Ben Ludwig and Phil Birdener, respectively. What a cast, what sensitive direction by John Baiocchi, what an unforgettable experience for the audience. Thanks to all involved, including the scenic designer, Michael Talaska. Quite a fitting ending for a season with many worthwhile productions. This was their best.
Waukesha Civic jumpstarts the ’50s-era tragedy
By Steve Spice
Posted: June 10, 2014
Arthur Miller’s 1955 A View from the Bridge may seem a bit dated today, although the Waukesha Civic Theater’s production jumpstarts the tragedy’s energy with a spritely series of serviceable performances which gel together without any particular standout.
Noah Silverstein stars as Eddie, an Italian American living in Brooklyn’s Hook section near the famous bridge who cannot conceal his passion for his young niece or control his jealous attempts to ruin her marriage to a young illegal immigrant by exposing him.
Miller’s gradual, too-studied pacing by building drama from small increments works better in a more subtle production than this well-intentioned cast can muster. The cast sometimes succeeds, although the author’s handling of the now too-familiar immigration problems seems tepid. Miller’s developmental style, which seems more lackadaisical than usual in this work, takes its own sweet time in arriving at its dramatic conclusion. The Greek chorus effect of the offstage attorney, who is also part of the story, works well. Despite difficulties, A View from the Bridge was an enjoyable show.
By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
June 9, 2014
There was lots of "news" at Waukesha Civic Theatre during opening night of "A View from the Bridge."
There were many performers new to WCT. And the play, written by Arthur Miller and first presented in 1955, is one of the playwright's lesser-known shows. It was probably a first for most theater-goers.
While the play is seldom seen, it does have the look of other shows of that era that most are familiar with. Eddie Carbone, this show's protagonist, might remind folks of another hot-tempered character, Tennessee Williams' Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Plus, the 1954 crime drama "On the Waterfront" deals with corruption among longshoremen in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The original screenplay was also written by Arthur Miller, and its angst-ridden main character, Terry Malloy, bears some resemblance to Carbone.
"A View from the Bridge" is a weighty drama, which is also new to WCT, which normally ends its season on a lighter note. Yet this cast bore the weight expertly.
Eddie Carbone (Noah Silverstein), a Brooklyn longshoreman, has, along with his wife, Beatrice (Jacqueline Gosz), raised his orphaned niece, Catherine (Gabriella Smurawa). At age 17, she is a lovely young woman. Eddie, who has worked hard to pay for stenography school for Catherine so she could move up from the low-class tenements, has sheltered her from life's seamy side. Beatrice's hope has been that "one day she would be a secretary."
And then, two of Beatrice's cousins come from Italy to stay with the family and find work in America. They are illegal immigrants. Marco (Phil Birdener) has a wife and three children back home. Rodolpho, Marco's brother, is unmarried. He likes to sing, and he buys some fancy clothes with his first paycheck. Men at the dock make fun of Rodolpho, and Eddie complains about his effeminate ways, saying, "He ain't right."
But Catherine is smitten by Rodolpho's charm, which causes Eddie great distress, leaving the household in disarray. Eddie seeks advice on the matter from his lawyer friend, Alfieri (Dave Boxhorn), who also serves as the show's narrator as he watches the family unravel with the arrival of Catherine's womanhood and the house guest she falls for.
Eddie is a simple character thrust into complicated circumstances. He is childless and with a distant marriage to Beatrice, and his relationship with Catherine has become more than that of a father and daughter. When he sees Beatrice enamored of Rodolpho, he is nearly inconsolable and regards him as less than a man.
As Eddie, Silverstein carries his character's rage as his hatred and confusion slowly turn him maniacal. His performance is mesmerizing until the final scenes, when Eddie's anger no longer simmers under the surface, but boils over into histrionics as he realizes his life is spiraling out of control.
Director John Baiocchi has assembled a core group of six actors who are totally committed to this challenging show and respond with stellar performances. Silverstein, Gosz and Smurawa create such a natural family unit you'd think you were peeking through their living room window. Silverstein's emotions are all over his sleeve — he slouches, punches at the air, clenches his teeth and screams as he tries to cope with the changing family dynamics.
Yet, in the final scenes, the antics of Silverstein's Eddie needlessly overshadowed the other characters who were carrying burdens of their own — especially Beatrice, marvelously portrayed by Gosz. More than any character, Beatrice is in a horrible Catch-22, having to decide who to side with. Gosz creates an incredibly sympathetic character who sees things so much clearer than Eddie. Her pleadings are heart-wrenching as she tries desperately to keep the family together.
Smurawa's Catherine transforms tremendously as she sees her family through new eyes once the immigrants arrive and her love for Rodolpho intensifies.
This trio is amazing to watch, and it only gets better with the arrival of Birdener's brooding Marco and Ludwig's flashy Rodolpho.
Boxhorn, a WCT veteran, is also wonderful in the role of the lawyer and narrator. His scenes provide a respite from the heaviness of the family scenes.
The play bogs down into lengthy exposition and cartoonish acting as immigration officers arrive on the scene, although the confrontation between Marco and Eddie is handled well. The disposal of a body at the end drew unexpected laughs during the show's final dramatic moments.
Scenic designer and master carpenter Michael Talaska chose a simple, yet effective, set for the Carbone dining/living area on most of the stage, and Alfieri's office off to the side. After the complex, rotating stage in the recent "Noises Off," this show contained no moving parts other than props which helped create a fast pace and seamless set changes.
Scott Fudali, the lighting designer, did a nice job creating evening scenes and defining outdoor street spaces in front of the Carbone apartment.
This was a fine way to end a successful season for WCT as it prepares for its 2014-15 season, which opens with the "Sound of Music."
Student Discount is available for children and any patron who is able to display a current student ID. Senior discount applies to all patrons 60 years or older.
For our "Pay What You Can" performances, patrons can buy tickets for that show on the day of the performance at whatever price their budget will allow.
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10 ticket minimum per performance required.
Educational Group Rate is only available for all educational groups and Boy and Girl Scout troops. 10 ticket minimum per performance required.
Alexis has amazing energy and dove into all of her tasks with joy and good humor. She was always full of sunshine at rehearsals and during the performances. She conducted herself with great professionalism and was always willing to lend a helping hand whenever necessary. She gave of herself 100% and it was obvious that she took great pride in her work.