Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Waiting for Lefty

We had such a rich weekend of theatregoing that you're going to be regaled with one post after another about the wonderful shows we witnessed. You have already heard about Carrie Fisher, but on the preceding Friday evening we took in our first Wagner College show of the season - Waiting for Lefty. For those who don't know, Wagner has a nationally recognized theatre program and puts on many fine productions throughout the year. If we can get around to it, we will be seeing Tommy soon, the first musical of their season. And this probably shouldn't be missed, as Wagner specializes in musical theatre. Last year, we saw a fine production of Annie Get Your Gun.

But we kind of prefer straight theatre and we were definitely not disappointed with Clifford Odets' short Depression piece - Waiting for Lefty. This play is one of the first that the famous Group Theatre put on and helped to establish its reputation for hard hitting, politically radical drama. Plot aside, which is only marginally interesting, it has a tone that is both desperate about the poverty facing ordinary workers and a kind of utopian hopefulness about what unions - especially striking unions - could accomplish to bring fair wages to underpaid stiffs. It ends with a powerful clarion call to strike, repeated many times, that is timed beautifully as a kind of culminating crescendo of passion and need. The acting of these kids who are completely disconnected from this time and place is nothing short of miraculous, and must be attributed in large part to the ingenious staging and guidance provided by the Wagner faculty member who directed the play - David McDonald. What really makes this play work is the camaraderie, the playfulness, the incidental talk of the students who play the union members. Their timing is impeccable and just about makes you think you have been transported to this alien time and place and that you are watching actual events unfold before your eyes. Hats off to David McDonald, the Wagner student actors, and the College that supports them in doing such fine work.

1 comment:

  1. Very appropriate to start the second hundred with a Wagner-centric post....
    Plays from the depression era have a particular resonance today as we experience the worst unemployment and foreclosure numbers in 70 years. But I take your point that the students can only imagine the grim reality of the 30's. Of course, as an actor friend once said to me, 'That's why they call it acting'.
    Keep up the good work.