Look Back In Anger

By John Osbornelook back in anger by the verge theatre

Directed by Brandon Pape

Produced by The Verge Theatre Company

At The New Rock Theater, Chicago

Promising new theatre company mumbles through British landmark drama

My visit to the improved stage at the former LaCasta Theatre – now know as The New Rock Theatre in Albany Park – shows that the facility is tighter with an intimate new thrust stage  that allows excellent sight lines. A new theatre company – The Verge – is now showing the 1956 drama Look Back In Anger by John Osborne. This four person play is the story of an angry and frustrated young man, Jimmy Porter (Nathan Burger) who is over educated and underemployed. He is filled with rage that he takes out on his wife Alison (Claire Alden) and his only friend, Cliff Lewis (Nicholas Harazin). Jimmy is bored, restless and anger-filled so in order to stir up some excitement, he verbally abuses and insults both Cliff and Alison. Jimmy is relentless and much of act one is filled with his rants.  Jimmy has low self-esteem with little ambition and he is a narcissistic bully.

His repressive anger helped coin the phrase “angry young man,” the overly tolerant Cliff and the doting stoic wife Alison seem to tolerate Jimmy’s constant outbursts.  Why they do is one of life’s mysteries.  Finally, after Helana Charles (Saren Nofs-Snyder), Alison’s old friend arrives and chides Alison to leave the bully, she does so without telling Jimmy that she is pregnant.

Without giving away more, let me say that Jimmy is quite an antihero who deserves to slapped often. While I thought the cast worked hard to convey the emotions necessary, I had trouble understanding Burger’s Jimmy and Alden’s Alison. They sported passable British accents but both mumbled too softly and ran their words together speaking so fast that much of what they spoke became  unintelligible. Burger raced through so many rants that I wished for super-titles like the opera uses. Too much fast-talking screaming marred the  production. All too often Alden mumbled so softly that I couldn’t hear her. I blame the director for not getting the cast to project more, to slow down and enunciate so we can hear and understand what they are saying.

Once the cast deals with their rapid-fire speech patterns and their mumbling, a worthy drama could emerge. Saren Nofs-Snyder, as Helena and Nicholas Harazin had several fine moments.  Look Back In Anger sure highlights anxiety and loneliness among the 1950’s disenfranchised English youths.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

At The New Rock Theater, 3933 N. Elston Ave., Chicago,IL, tickets $20, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through May 1, 2011