POST: Murrow High School's 'A View from the Bridge'
What's it about?
Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge is set in a 1950s Red Hook, Brooklyn. The story centers on Eddie Carbone and the increasingly inappropriate relationship he develops for his wife's teenage niece, Catherine.
What'd I experience?
I had never before seen a high school production that wasn't playing at my own high school. Admittedly, I had no desire to do so. LaGuardia High School's performances had a reputation for being top notch, and they were. But when I had the opportunity to venture out of my comfort zone and attend a production of A View From the Bridge playing at the Joseph Papp Theatre at Edward R. Murrow High School, I took it. Because I was intrigued about exploring uncharted territory. Besides, I had a couple of friends whose sisters had attended, and so at least I had some investment in the place.
I left my new job at as close to 5:00pm as I could manage. Then I walked from my Bryant Park office building to my mother's office building, which was conveniently only a few blocks away. Together, we grabbed a quick bite at Between the Bread, before I realized that it was 6:00pm and the show started at 7:00pm! So I raced to the Times Square train station, praying I'd get on a Q train soon enough that I wouldn't miss any of the show. This school was in Brooklyn and according to Google Maps, it would take me almost an hour to get to from where I was in Manhattan. YIKES... That didn't leave a lot of wiggle room.
I did board a Q train not too long after I arrived at the station, but there was still so much room for things to go wrong. Just the slightest delay and I'd be screwed. And I tried not to think of the 3-minute walk I'd have before me in an area of Brooklyn I was unfamiliar with once I got off the train.
I got to the Avenue M train stop with four minutes to spare and frantically scanned the streets for people who looked trustworthy or like they might go to Murrow. The first two people I asked gave me shrugs and apologies, but finally I approached a girl that seemed to know what she was talking about. I saw recognition in her eyes when I mentioned Murrow, and the directions she gave were simple enough that even I didn't worry about following them.
I ran all the way there, and I entered the school half expecting the security guards to not let me in. When I told them I was there for the show, I was directed down a hallway and told to go up the staircase at the end and walk up to the second floor. If I wasn't in such a rush (it was already a few minutes past 7:00pm) I would have snapped a picture because the sight that greeted me was so comical: a sign pinned to all the doors leading out of the staircase on the second floor that read: "Do not enter. Performers only." Um... They had to be kidding me. Determined, I entered anyway and was confronted by angry crew and cast alike telling me I was not allowed to enter this way. Before I could even argue my case, around five other people piled up behind me, claiming they were given the same directions as me. One of the crew went downstairs to correct the security guards, and we were instructed to go back to the ground floor and walk up to the second floor through a different staircase. A young girl noticed I looked distressed and suggested that we walk together since we were headed to the same place. I agreed, glad to have a guide. I asked her if she was a student at Murrow, to which she replied that she was, but added that A View From the Bridge was the first play she would ever be attending at her school. I was shocked. At LaGuardia, attending performances was built into the curriculum. But even if it wasn't, tickets sold out almost instantly. She asked if I went to Murrow too and I nearly choked. Having just turned 22, it was amusing to think that people still thought I looked like a teenager. I awkwardly explained to her that not only did I not go to Murrow, then or ever, but that I had recently graduated from college, and was writing about her school's production for an online theatre magazine. "But you look like a high school kid!" she couldn't help but say. "Well," I told her, "When I'm 50, everyone will think I look 30. I'm not complaining."
We got to the theatre and thankfully, it looked like the show was not going to start for another 5 minutes. This particular theatre was on the smaller side, but they made due with the resources they had. The set, basically the Carbone family's living room, looked realistically constructed and appropriate to the time period. I took note of painted red brick and what looked like a real record player. Still, it was hard not to compare to LaGuardia. I could hear both cast and crew loudly whispering and laughing backstage and I couldn't help but think, "How unprofessional." As the lights dimmed, I recalled that this would be my third time ever seeing a production of A View from the Bridge.
The actors were definitely talented, but I somehow was never able to forget that they were kids. The talent level might have been higher at Murrow than at the average high school, but there was a certain innocence, a certain "rough-around-the-edges" quality to the production that screamed "high school." And I didn't mind it. In fact, I found it charming.
When does love become too much? When does affection cross a line?
Eddie Carbone married Beatrice, whose widowed sister died, leaving behind a baby Catherine. On Catherine's mother's deathbed, Eddie promised her that he would care for her daughter. And he and Beatrice raised her as their own, never having any biological children together. But there was something wrong, something that developed over time. Catherine was this little baby to Eddie, this delicate little bird. He slaved away to provide for his family, but it was Catherine that he put before anyone and anything else. And she was always there, both when he left for work and when he came home at the end of the day. And she appreciated him and thought the world of him. Eddie cared deeply for Catherine, but he forgot or refused to recognize one crucial truth: Little girls grew up. Eddie went beyond the average father or father figure's slight reluctance for their daughter to be out of the house and on their own. Catherine went through puberty, but was not permitted by Eddie to date boys. When she graduated high school, Eddie decided to pay for stenography lessons. But before she completed her lessons, she was offered a job at a large company, a job that had the potential to morph into a position as a secretary in some time. But instead of being happy for Catherine, Eddie was overly protective and angry that she would consider taking such a job without finishing her stenography lessons.
Catherine started wearing more adult clothing, complete with high heels, and Eddie was bothered by the way he now viewed her, with a "wavy" walk and a noticeable womanly figure. And Catherine, despite her youth and inexperience, felt something for Eddie that went beyond what a niece should feel for her uncle. She knew him, intimately, in a lot of ways better than Beatrice. She could communicate with him silently and understood his changing moods. She'd also do things like walk around the house in her slip and sit on the edge of the bathtub while Eddie was shaving in his underwear. And even as a 17 and 18-year-old she would still fling herself at him when he came home from work like a small child. And Beatrice, who had seen this escalate over the years, kept silent until she no longer could, until it was too late. And while Eddie may have been the one most in the wrong, Catherine and Beatrice both each played a part in whatever action unfolded in their lives.
Eddie let his love for Catherine destroy him and as a result, their entire family. While Eddie and Catherine were not blood relatives, there was still something undoubtedly creepy about the way they behaved with one another considering he had raised her to adulthood. I found it interesting how too much of a pure thing could become disastrous under the right conditions.