It’s not a play that’s often produced, but Andrei Malaev-Babel rates Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” among the best works of American drama.
“It’s kind of a lost masterpiece from that period in which he came up with ‘Death of a Salesman,’ ‘The Crucible’ and ‘All My Sons,’ ” Malaev-Babel said. “This play is on par with those other great masterpieces.”
Malaev-Babel is directing “A View From the Bridge” for the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota. The new production opens Wednesday.
He said he has no idea why “View” doesn’t get more attention. It explores many of the same ideas as “The Crucible,” and does so just as powerfully. Perhaps because theater companies produce Miller plays only occasionally, they tend to choose others from the late ’40s and early ’50s that are more familiar to theater-goers.
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It’s kind of a lost masterpiece from that period in which he came up with “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible” and “All My Sons.” This play is on par with those other great masterpieces.
The play may actually be more well-known in other countries.
“It’s a strange thing about Miller,” he said. “I think that he’s better known in the rest of the world than he is here. And he’s so American. Even his death was a much bigger event in Europe than it was in America.”
“A View From the Bridge” has an interesting history. Miller had written a screenplay about corruption on the New York City docks, and Elia Kazan was supposed to direct it. The movie company bigwigs wanted Miller to turn the corrupt union officials into Communists, but Miller refused. Not long after, both Miller and Kazan were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was involved with persecuting Communists. Kazan named some movie industry people who were Communists, but Miller refused.
Kazan went on to direct “On the Waterfront” and Miller wrote “A View From the Bridge,” both of which explore the same milieu and some of the same ideas as the earlier screenplay, and both of which are influence by their HUAC experiences.
What makes it contemporary is themes of illegal immigration and homophobia. What makes it eternal is themes of adultery, themes of betrayal.
“A View From the Bridge” has to do with residents of Red Hook, an Italian-American (at that time) neighborhood of Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn Bridge. The protagonist, Eddie, is obsessed with his wife’s niece. When the niece becomes involved with an illegal immigrant, Eddie calls the immigration department and has him and other illegal immigrants arrested.
“What makes it contemporary is themes of illegal immigration and homophobia,” Malaev-Babel said. “What makes it eternal is themes of adultery, themes of betrayal.”
Miller, he said, created “A View From the Bridge” as “a Greek Tragedy in modern disguise.”
“He’s obviously writing about himself,” Malaev-Babel said. “So it’s very personal but at the same time it’s universal. You can write about yourself, and if you’re honest it’s going to stand 10 years, 20 years, or in this case, more than 60 years later.”
Details: Dec. 28-Jan. 15, Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. No performance Jan. 1. $28 matinee, $29 evening. 941-351-8000, asolorep.org.