"Arthur Miller's play lends itself to a variety of interpretations: it can be viewed as drama verité, painting a picture of community life amid the Italian population of Red Hook, on the southwestern coast of Brooklyn. Or as a fable of dreams deferred, elders sacrificing so their young may flourish. One can find Freudian overtones in its exploration of blue-collar paternal affection subverted by incestuous impulses stemming from suppressed envy. ( Don't we, today, still see parents resentful of the privileges they shower upon their children? ) And how could the plight of “submarines”—illegal immigrants—seeking economic opportunities in America not resonate with audiences in 2008?
It should come as no surprise that this GreyZelda Theatre Group production does not fit easily into preconceived categories. Where some directors would instruct their actors to delve the possibility of sexual ambiguities in Eddie Carbone's possessive attitude toward his maturing niece and her effeminate ( by 1956 standards, remember ) suitor, Chris Riter never permits his subtext to wallow in sweaty speculation. Likewise, speeches that would, under other guidance, be delivered with operatic majesty are kept well within the vernacular idiom of their milieu.
Indeed, if this rendition of the familiar classroom classic has any prototype, it would be an early television play: the live-action scenes are almost wholly restricted to the Carbone family parlor, with only a suggestion of hall stairway and front stoop, all other exterior scenes being shown in video clips, courtesy of filmmaker Ed French. ( David Lykins' attorney Alfieri never addresses us except before the camera. ) Far from diminishing the story's impact, however, this multimedia approach further intensifies our acquaintance and, thus, our understanding of the social environment that turns fundamentally good men to violence and vengeance.Opening on a frigid night only three days into the new year, the GreyZelda ensemble couldn't help but fall a bit short of its ambitious goals, emotions kindling too slowly before igniting. But Stage Left's intimate quarters permit the cinematic ambience of the prerecorded sequences to be carried over to the on-site performances—in particular, techniques associated with close-up shots that allow us to see thoughts cross characters' minds unspoken. Ironically, it is just this cozy brand of realism ( as contrasted with the glib repartee of extensively-drilled players confidant of their next words ) that invokes empathy without our being aware of its influence, so that when the inevitable strikes—and we, literally, see it coming—we experience the catharsis due all unnecessary destruction in an imperfect world."
Doesn't Mary write beautifully? I always enjoy her reviews because she's able to spin journalism intelligently and poetically, while still remaining descriptive and accurate.
(*edited 1/17/2007 at 3:49pm* - I've been a long time fan of Mary Shen Barnidge's writing because I think it's good - regardless of whether or not she reviews our shows or not - my comment above was put because I feel the post is well-written and uses really good words and descriptions and quotes that are beautiful to read, to me, from the literary sense. She's got a huge talent and Chicago should be very proud to have such an eloquent writer coming to see their shows. Go read her other reviews - you'll see what I mean.)