Eddie Carbone (Caleb Barron), a docker from 1950s
Eddie's self-destruction results from his insecurity, a self-regarding love for his niece and his growing alienation from Beatrice. In his narcissism the wretched man cannot respect himself, so he begs respect from others, and his eventual demand for apologies despite none being due leads to nemesis. Apropos of which, Eddie hardly falls within the scope of one rule of Aristotelian, classical tragedy, whereby the tragic hero should be a character of noble stature or something approaching it, and has greatness in his fall from a great height. It's the task of the actor to inject pathos and something of a sense of dignity into the fairly unpromising material that is Eddie, and Barron succeeds well in his portrayal. He and joint directors Joe Woodman and Joel Stanley see to it that the pacing of this central rôle ascribes an arc of intensity from an initial low-key approach, gradually building up a fair head of steam.
I felt fleeting disappointment at the start, both in respect of the set design – a jumble of furniture, strictly generic and with no individual touch to particularize this tenement interior, and even the washing dangling from a line seemed a bit sparse – and the impact of the introduction by the moralizing lawyer/one-man chorus (Joe Stanton, excellent) was blunted by his having to talk over a crooner on the wind-up gramophone. But the quality of Berkmann's voice, fluttering gesture and movement settled us down, and soon the general plot line is established as Catherine comes and perches on Uncle Eddie's knee. Wills captures nicely her development from skittish teenager ('I'm not a baby; I know more than people think!') to an outburst of adult, righteous indignation, on the eve of her wedding. She's backed up by Alex Marks' silent but physically imposing married immigrant Marco, while James Akka puts in a terrific turn as Catherine's husband-to-be. Seductive of Italian accent, he's both a convincing hack singer and novice boxer, and has the priceless ability to give out energy while doing next to nothing.
The directors bring off several little coups, including the gruesome moment where a desperate Eddie plants a smacking kiss on the lips of Rodolpho, and the culminating action scene is competently handled. Miller's language is seldom more than workmanlike and his narrative thrust plain from a longish way out, and while his protagonist never plumbs the frightening depths explored by Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, this is a work of stature, given an always careful and sometimes inspired rendering by Practically Peter Productions. Warmly recommended this week.