reviewed by Paula Citron
Awake and Sing!
Written by Clifford Odets
Directed by Miles Potter
Starring Jonathan Gould, Nancy Palk, William Webster, Ari Cohen, Derek Boyes, Michael Hanrahan, Sarah Wilson, Matthew Edison and Oliver Dennis
At the Young Centre until Jul. 31
American Clifford Odets is the playwright as preacher. His depression-era Awake and Sing! is quintessential agitprop theatre.
The play consists of scenes from the mean life of a working class Jewish family in the Bronx. The European-born grandfather is a Communist, and his philosophy underpins the family’s grinding poverty in the face of the American dream. There are no saints and sinners. Everyone is shades of good and bad, weak and strong.
Director Miles Potter goes for the emotional as his cast copes to varying degrees with Odets’ hard-boiled, colourful dialogue. Nancy Palk gives a strong performance as the shrewish mother Bessie. as does Ari Cohen as the cynical border Moe, Michael Hanrahan as rag trade capitalist Uncle Morty, and Jonathan Gould and Sarah Wilson as the adult children. Accents get in the way of William Webster and Matthew Edison, while Derek Boyes, miscast as the father, can’t convey Myron’s quiet desperation.
Awake and Sing! continues at the Young Centre until Jul. 31.