American Blues Theater strikes solid gold with 'Waiting for Lefty'

September 9, 2011

Call it agit-prop if you like, or say "If you want to send a message use Western Union;" but if you're not inspired by Clifford Odets's Waiting for Lefty as performed by American Blues Theater, you must have ice water in your veins. In a single intermission-free hour, Odets and the troupe condemn corrupt union bosses, company spies, anti-Semites, people who argue against demands for change because they'll undermine an ally in the White House, capitalists who make poison gas and want to sleep with their chemists, capitalists who bankroll Broadway shows and want to sleep with their actresses, and the gospel of hopelessness that says there's nothing to be done about any of it. Most important, it reminds us that political change isn't something that happens; it's something we have to do. 

Of course I'm precisely the audience for which the piece was written: though not quite a "red diaper baby," I did have a godfather named Eugene Victor Debs Auerbach. But anyone who values lively and committed theater will love Lefty too. Special kudos to Terry Hamilton for yet another terrific portrayal of someone whose every word is a lie including "and" and "the"* (first Richard Nixon, then Walter Burns and now a character as much like Jimmy Hoffa as is possible without actually disappearing). Kimberly Senior directs this production (as all her others) with such a light touch it would be easy to forget that she was there, except for the fact that the performances are uniformly excellent, the pacing impeccable, and the emotional heart of the play right out there on its sleeve.

Solidarity forever!

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*per Mary McCarthy