By Marcina Zaccaria . . .

Ropes with pulleys flying through the air are a visual sign of the intense muscularity of dock work, lauded in The Hook

Brave New World Repertory Theatre challenges conventions, staging a site-specific play that examines the story of real-life dock worker Pete Panto, who disappeared in Red Hook. Entrances and exits through hatches in the floor are some of the greater surprises, building an astonishing visual language that proves somewhat more memorable than the text, adapted for the stage by Ron Hutchinson with UK Director James Dacre. The story was taken from a screenplay originally from Arthur Miller who also set his famous play, A View from the Bridge, in Brooklyn.

With The Hook, Brave New World Repertory Theatre packs the stage with a large, gifted cast. In the end, they’ve presented a gritty story of survival about dock workers fighting to be compensated for their labor. Would their work card be taken? As in many of Arthur Miller’s plays, the lead character, Marty, suffers financially, morally, and spiritually. The game is stacked against him. The Union Men call for a strike, insisting on leadership that they can believe in. Director Claire Beckman casts tough-talking women to compete with the men, demanding what’s needed for the home. Groceries passed in a crate seem scant as they question how to pyramid through a power system to gain respect.

Marty, played with charisma by Paul Bomba, juggles his responsibilities, eventually proving wise to consult with the other men and battle the boss. He never rises to the top of the ranks. This crushing defeat, delivered by the men who did not vote for him, makes for a devastating climax. Fast-paced, perfectly performed series of actions keep the audience engaged for the duration of the play. In fight scenes, bar talks, and even a car wreck, the inventive staging is deeply theatrical, maximizing what can be coordinated in such a compact space. Surprising also, is the motion of the floating stage on the water, adding to a sense of vulnerability throughout the 90-minute performance. Projections bring us back, creating a time capsule in the mind. 

Erin Treadway

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of this production is the feeling one gets while walking out. At the exit of the Waterfront Museum there is a breathtaking view of the Statue of Liberty, beaming after being covered in last Wednesday’s unprecedented orange haze (from the smoke of the forest fires in Canada). Such a view from the often-obscure world of Red Hook made for a remarkable experience, impressive to even the most jaded New Yorkers. 

The Hook. Through June 25 at Waterfront Barge Museum (290 Conover Street,  Red Hook, Brooklyn). 

Photos: Jody Christopherson