The Roundabout Theater Co. certainly has its share of woes this summer, but Tony Danza, leading a uniformly strong replacement cast in its production of “A View From the Bridge,” is happily not among them. Danza gives a sturdy, effective performance in his Broadway debut as Arthur Miller’s longshoreman with a soul-destroying fixation on his wife’s niece, and director Michael Mayer’s careful ministrations assure that this remains a first-rate production of a second-rank Miller play.
Danza’s boyish face and small stature add a slightly unnerving layer to the story: It almost seems natural that his Eddie, who has retained the angry pout and temperament of a teenager well into middle age, would turn to his niece Catherine for affection as his wife matured both physically and emotionally beside him. Danza doesn’t seem much older than Chelsea Altman, whose performance as Catherine is a squeaky comic facsimile of predecessor Brittany Murphy’s.
The sitcom veteran also brings an edgy comic menace to some of his line readings and is an expert at the slow burn (though his performance hits an angry peak too early in the second act). Does he suggest the roiling depths that brought Anthony LaPaglia a Tony? Perhaps not, but he cannot be faulted for what Miller left out. Both protagonist and play lack dimension; “View From the Bridge” is kitchen-sink drama tricked out with the trappings of tragedy, and Eddie meets his dark fate in the same state of self-delusion he started out in.
As Eddie’s wife Beatrice, who watches in mournful, knowing frustration the destruction of her family, Caren Browning is subtly affecting, much as was Allison Janney. Sharp’s flashes of bitter fire explode from her Beatrice, a woman visibly weary with disappointment. (Indeed one almost wishes Miller had made Beatrice the focus of the play’s sympathies and attention; hers is a nobler and sadder predicament.)
David Barry Gray, as Rodolpho, the object of Catherine’s affection and Eddie’s sexual jealousy, comes into his own in his long-delayed confrontation with Eddie, and Peter Rini’s natural magnetism gives the small but pivotal role of Marco some needed heft.
Robert LuPone, who joined the cast earlier when the production moved from the Roundabout, handles the difficult role of Alfieri, lawyer and local purveyor of portent, with just the right admixture of gravitas and world-weary charm.
The “purity” that Alfieri extols in Eddie at the play’s close may remain a mystifying concept, but this production exudes a stark theatrical vigor that has its own arresting clarity.