It’s always good to keep in mind that even the greats have moments where their art doesn’t quite work.
I got to see a great production of “View from the Bridge” last night. Great cast, full house, clever staging, and a framing device that absolutely would not stop distracting from the story.
And the thing of it is that the story doesn’t really need a framing device. It’s pretty straightforward. A man and his wife raise the wife’s niece when she’s orphaned, the man becomes overly attached to the girl, and then grows increasingly jealous of her first serious suitor. His behavior eventually costs him everything he’s spent his life working to build and keep, and then gets him killed.
The tension is there. The whole situation’s a powder keg. It shouldn’t be, but it is, and you know damn well that nobody’s going to do anything to keep it from blowing because it’s Arthur Miller. This is a play where Act Two starts, the curtain goes up on a Christmas tree, and your first reaction is “Oh Jesus Christ, this is going to be ugly.” There’s literally nothing about it that demands or is made better by periodic monologues by a minor character.
Apparently Arthur Miller didn’t see it that way, though, because half the time the play starts getting really real, up pops the lawyer from the periphery to bring everything to a screeching halt with his maundering about destiny and inevitability. The undue attention paid to the character warps the story. It got to the point where we started trying to ascribe some deeper meaning to it, like the whole thing secretly being a play about a lawyer who lives for his more blood-thirsty clients, because giving them bad advice and egging them on is the only break from the monotony of evictions and negligence cases that comprise 99% of his normal practice.
It’s the last thing you want when you’re writing a play like that one, but here we are, listening to an unnecessary narrator and wishing he’d shut up so you can get back to the story.