Like many tragedies, "A View from the Bridge," which is based on a true story, begins with an aura of normalcy. The middle-aged Eddie (Geoff Fiorito) is a congenial-enough Archie Bunker type, a decent breadwinner respected by coworkers, and a devoted father figure to his too-affectionate, strawberry blond niece (April Culver). But it doesn't take long to recognize danger. Eddie is antsy, afraid of losing control, afraid of losing Catherine, who is about to embark on a career as a stenographer. Meanwhile, the frazzled Beatrice, brilliantly played by Marjorie Hazeltine, who has the Brooklyn Italian speech patterns and mannerisms down pat, reveals the frustrations of a trapped housewife, determined to please but experiencing little pleasure.
Enter the two Sicilians: Marco, the tough, hard-working older brother (Drew Reitz), bears his own tragedy. To support his wife and three children, one of whom has serious health problems, he leaves the land he loves because there are no jobs. By contrast, the younger brother, Rodolpho, a blond cut-up on the Brooklyn docks, with a penchant to burst into song and dance at the drop of a hat, is determined to become American as quickly as possible. Played by Anthony Stephens, he injects notes of comic relief into this dark drama with an over-animated rendition of "Paper Doll."
This play is a clash of cultures between native-born and immigrant as well as between first and second-generation Americans. Above all, it is Eddie's story, and Fiorito captures the tragic hero's inevitable descent into a hell of his own making.
Given the current political climate, Pear Avenue director Ray Renati sees a contemporary message in the drama that goes beyond forbidden love and illegal immigration.
"Eddie's simultaneously a bully, and a sad victim of his past — old-fashioned Catholic guilt and shame," he said. "To defy Eddie is to incur his rage. He will make sure that you pay. Donald Trump does the same thing."
If Miller's "Death of a Salesman" epitomizes the American dream gone sour, "A View from the Bridge" reveals the nightmare of decent working-class folk, trapped in trauma. Director Renati, lighting and sound designers Meghan Souther and Will Price, respectively, invite us into that world, and perhaps help us to see similarities with our own. This play is a winner.
What: "A View from the Bridge"
Where: Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View
When: Through April 2, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
Cost: $35, senior and student discounts
Info: Go to thepear.org or phone 650-254-1148.
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