SCOTT SUCHMAN / ARENA STAGE
Everyone knows the AP Literature staple “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, but few could write an expository essay about one of Miller’s other classics, “A View from the Bridge.”
Thus, Arena Stage presents the second in its two-play Arthur Miller festival to lucky crowds given a wonderful gift: the chance to see an Arthur Miller play for the first time.
Rotund District thespian Delaney Williams (“Ladder 49,” “Head of State”) leads the talented cast of “Salesman” back to the stage as Eddie Carbone, an Italian-American longshoreman living in Brooklyn in the 1950s. Arthur Miller revisits the American Dream as Eddie tries to help two illegal Italian immigrants establish themselves in America. But when one of them steals the heart of his innocent niece, jealousy, the dark side of love, overtakes Eddie, leading him down a despicable road.
The ending is foreseeable, but the experience is indescribable. With “A View from the Bridge,” Miller wove another tragic enigma with Eddie Carbone, whose only crime was to love too much.
Williams’ performance was as big as Williams himself, fronted by his thick Brooklyn-Italian accent that left some words lost, as may be expected. Helen Hayes-Award winner Naomi Jacobson supported Williams as his dedicated, strong-willed wife, Beatrice. Jacobson, who came off a smaller role as The Woman in “Salesman,” returned with a bang in “View.”
Other strong performances included Virginia Kull’s Dorothy-esque damsel in distress, Eddie’s niece Catherine, and David Agranov as the flamboyant Italian, Rodolpho.
Louis Cancelmi, who appeared in “Salesman” as the geek Bernard, took to the stage as Marco, the strong and silent Italian who came to America to make enough to save his dying son in Italy. Cancelmi’s performance was as chiseled as his figure - an entire world away from his perhaps purposely nondescript Bernard.
Beyond acting, the set was clearly related to the previous night’s “Salesman,” displaying the blue-collar home on the left and leaving the stage free on the right. A tremendous fight scene finale used the available space to the fullest.
The show takes place in Arena Stage’s impermanent space in Crystal City. It’s simple and traditional but offers plenty of leg room.
Again, the Arena Stage made a good decision by choosing such a character-based show. Behind Williams, Jacobson and Cancelmi, the play was sure to come alive, temporary theater or not. And, as the previous night, the cast was met with a standing ovation.
If there is a show to see out of the two at Arena, treat yourself to the lesser-known Miller play. Let yourself be taken into a world that English class has yet to tame. Allow yourself to experience and expand.
“Death of a Salesman” and “A View from the Bridge” play alternating nights through May 18. Student ticket discounts and $10 runs are available. Visit Arena Stage’s Web site, http://www.arenastage.com, to find out more.