Directed by Kimberly Senior
Produced by American Blues Theater
At the Victory Gardens Upstairs Theatre
Cautionary tale about the effects of hard times on American workers packs a punch!
Clifford Odets’ 1935 revolutionary work first produced by the Group Theatre using “agit-prop” theatre techniques. This work utilizes actor plants in the audience to arouse responses and to break the ‘fourth walk.’ While a tad dated, Waiting For Lefty is still a classic warning to big corporations not to continue to oppress the American working class. In the 1930’s the play was a huge success and it was mounted all over the country even in union halls. It ignited a strong reaction and it aided union recruiting.
The American Blues Theater, under tight direction by Kimberly Senior, has mounted a worthy production of Waiting For Lefty. Told in a series of vignettes structured around a taxi union meeting to discuss a strike in NYC, the work dramatizes the greed and exploitation of workers by big business. Odets was a socialist/communist who admired the Russian model in the 1930’s. He used Lefty to dramatize and promote his anti-capitalist beliefs by exposing the exploitation in human terms.
Featuring a cast of 15 players, Lefty has several poignant scenes including one that has a secretary promoting Marx’s Communist Manifesto, one that shows a taxi driver unable to feed his family. An industrialist tries to bribe a young female chemist to spy on her boss who is making a new deadly gas for warfare while a female Jewish doctor is cut from a hospital for being female and Jewish. The outrages continue until the group is so angered that fits are raised and “strike! strike!” is heard.
The show has many terrific moments and features nice work form Terry Hamilton, Cheryl Graff, Michelle Moe and Gwendolyn Whiteside. The 65 minute drama will stir up your rage as you ponder the 21st Century plight of the American worker. Too bad the contemporary solutions are not as obvious as the 1930’s were.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 8, 2011
At Victory Gardens Upstairs theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, www.americanbluestheater.com, tickets $25, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturday at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 65 minutes without intermission, through October 2, 2011