Thursday, March 1, 2012

Look Back in Anger *

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Roundabout Theatre's current revival of John Osborne's 1956 play is a puzzler. Granted, it's impossible to recreate the shock waves the play set off when it first appeared. But what's the point of reviving it if you strip out almost all the social and political background that makes the play comprehensible? One of the characters has been eliminated too. In the present version you would be hard put to figure out just what Jimmy Porter is so angry about. Matthew Rhys captures Jimmy's anger, but comes up short on the magnetism that would explain what holds people in his thrall. Also, it's a stretch to believe in him as a 25-year-old. Sarah Goldberg, as Jimmy's wife Alison, is fine in the first two acts, but doesn't find the right note for the final act. Adam Driver, as Cliff Lewis, is eminently watchable, but the reasons for his devotion to Jimmy remain a riddle. Charlotte Parry is strong as Helena. The production is very poorly served by Andrew Lieberman's set. A charcoal gray wall without windows or doors covers the entire stage, leaving a strip perhaps four feet deep for the action. This strip is cluttered with decrepit furniture, an iconic ironing board, and piles of trash and rotting food. If this is a metaphor for their circumscribed, squalid lives, it is a heavy-handed one. Mark Barton's lighting is problematic too. The audience is bathed in harsh bright light which gradually fades once the play begins. Sam Gold, in his third New York play this season, directed. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

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