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THEATER REVIEW : 'A View From the Bridge' Is a Passionate Family Drama : The Arthur Miller play explores how a love affair sparks class strife among Sicilian immigrants.

January 27, 1994|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Opening the Conejo Players' 1994 season is "A View from the Bridge," a '50s kitchen-sink drama by Arthur Miller. Perhaps unexpectedly, the play resonates strongly 40 years later.

It's one-third of an unplanned and uncoordinated Arthur Miller Festival taking place in Ventura County during the next month or two: the Santa Paula Theater Center will present "The Price" next month, and the Camarillo Youth Theater has "The Crucible" on deck.

"A View from the Bridge" takes place among Sicilian immigrants in Brooklyn. Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman, is living relatively happily with his wife, Beatrice, and niece, Catherine, when two relatives sneak into the United States without proper entry papers. Seventeen-year-old Catherine falls in love with one of them, and Eddie develops a sudden case of xenophobia. His niece can't marry Rodolpho, he says, because "he's not right."

By "not right," Eddie notes, Rodolpho doesn't look Sicilian: he's blond and thin. "If you close a book real fast, you could blow him over."

For Eddie, apparently, this is really about class (Rodolpho and his brother, Marco, are fishermen), and jingoism (they're off a more recent boat than the one that brought Eddie and his family to the United States).

Also involved, though never stated, are Eddie's feelings for Catherine, which may be a bit more than paternal.

Eddie tries to chase Rodolpho out of the house. When that doesn't work, he phones in an anonymous tip to immigration officials, hoping to have the pair deported. That doesn't work either. Then Eddie gets really mad. "I want my respect!" he cries.

Miller's play is taut, violent and seethingly passionate under Marianne Corney's direction, with exceptional performances by Lou Joffred as the explosive, emotionally confused Eddie, and Elizabeth Bauman as the unself-consciously sensual Catherine.

Only slightly less effective because of weak accents are Rodrigo Botero and Carmen Mormino as Rodolpho and Marco. Botero may remind some of Chico Marx; Bauman sounds like a cross between Edith Bunker and Minnie Mouse.

Doreen Zetterlund is fine as Beatrice, and Scott Mansfield is solid as attorney-narrator Alfred, Miller's surrogate in the play, who steps in every so often to explain things.

Michael Tachco designed the atmospheric set, with art by Dick Johnson. The music makes good use of cool jazz and Mills Brothers records.

When first produced on Broadway in 1955, "A View from the Bridge" was a long one-act play, coupled with the briefer "A Memory of Two Mondays." Here, "Bridge" is performed in two acts, clocking in at a just-right two hours, with "Two Mondays" just a memory.

Details

* WHAT: "A View from the Bridge"

* WHEN: Thursday through Saturday nights at 8, through Feb. 26.

* WHERE: Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks.

* COST: $8 general admission Thursday, $10 Friday and $12 Saturday nights.

* FYI: Note new curtain time and price structure. For reservations or information, call 495-3715.

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