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November 1, 2011

Performance Workshop Theatre stages Miller's 'A View From the Bridge'

There's a cancerous, unspeakable force driving Eddie Carbone, the anti-hero longshoreman in "A View From the Bridge," Arthur Miller's classic play enjoying an accomplished revival from Performance Workshop Theatre.

Having created a cocoon to raise Catherine, his terribly enticing niece, Eddie simply can't bear the thought that she might break free someday. His ordinary world -- loyal wife, dependable job, close-knit community -- just wouldn't have enough going for it without Catherine in it.

The physically pure, but morally contaminated, arrangement that Eddie enjoys at home could not possible last, of course.

By the time an exotically handsome young man and his brother -- cousins of Eddie's wife -- arrive illegally from Italy, the Carbone household is already heading toward a crisis point. The presence of guests merely speeds it up a little.

Watching Eddie self-destruct is never pleasant, but ...

it sure can make for great theater (and great opera, too -- William Bolcom's adaptation of the play is one of the most successful new operas in the past several decades).

Performance Workshop Theatre provides a close-up experience in the company's welcoming home on Harford Road.

This organization, with roots extending back to 1976, offers several productions and educational activities each season. The "workshop" part of the title doesn't seem to me entirely helpful, suggesting as it does a not-quite-finished state. Be that as it may, there is nothing unfinished about this "View From the Bridge." It's one of the better efforts I've seen among Baltimore's non-Equity theater groups.

Co-artistic director Marlyn G. Robinson guides the action fluidly and, for the most part, tautly through Roy Steinman's compact, evocative set.

The company's other co-artistic director, Marc Horwitz, heads the cast as Eddie. He's a little too soft-spoken and deliberate at times, as if determined to conceal the character's emotional turmoil until the last possible moment. But the actor rises tellingly to the occasion when the plot turns the corner from drama to tragedy.

Stacy Downs does endearing work as the naive, openhearted Catherine. As Eddie's all too aware wife, Beatrice, Katherine Lyons gives a standout performance, as beautifully nuanced in voice as in gesture. And she's genuinely affecting at those terrible points in the play when the truth must be laid out coldly on the modestly covered table in the Carbone living room.

Christopher Kinslow doesn't look too convincing as a blond, but his colorful acting brings Rodolpho persuasively to life. Michael Donlan likewise fleshes out the role of Marco. With an admirably subtle, yet richly communicative, style, Michael Salconi makes a compelling Alfieri (Jonathan Dillard's lighting worked especially well for the breaking-of-the-fourth-wall segments).

All in all, the production effectively illuminates Miller's sobering view of the ever-fragile human condition.

Performances continue through Sunday.


Posted by Tim Smith at 2:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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