Arthur Miller's 1956 play is set in the impoverished Italian-American population that inhabited Brooklyn. The themes are familiar Miller territory: sexual and cultural conflict, the burden of duty and the claustrophobic tensions that result.
Dock-worker Eddie (Adam Potterton) and his wife, Beatrice (Ida Persson) are raising their niece, Catherine (vivaciously played by Jessica Welch) when they take in Beatrice's cousins (Marco and Rodolpho) who have illegally entered America. Potterton delivers a brooding Eddie - whose inner emotional turmoil is only revealed at key plot points – nicely matching Persson's sympathetic matriarch, struggling to maintain the family's equilibrium.
Macho family man, Marco (ably played by Tim Younger) and sexually ambiguous Rodolpho (played with great gusto and commitment by Nathan Grassi) are welcomed into the family's small flat, but a burgeoning relationship between Rodolpho and Catherine raises the emotional temperature, emphasizing Eddie's unnatural obsession with Catherine and the decline of his marriage to Beatrice. It is this complex relationship that drives the play's rhythm, leading characters to the extremes of human behaviour.
The play is connected by a narrator in the Greek tradition. David Guthrie's enigmatic and morally ambivalent Alfieri provides an insight into the cultural background and tensions, ultimately playing a part in the play's tragic conclusion.
The sparse set design uses the North Wall's stage to good effect, giving a strong visual impression of a tenement block.
Director Alex Nichols has delivered a cast that have been well-coached: they emote Miller's dialogue with convincing accents and at good pace. However, this production occasionally suffers from a lack of dynamism; some scenes which should serve to ratchet up the emotional tension are rather too still and lacking in a physical energy which might give more dramatic impact.
- Ian Greer
An Oxford Theatre Guild Production at The North Wall, Oxford www.oxfordtheatreguild.com