CLIFFORD ODETS AWAKE AND SING PDFJune 29, 2020
Lincoln Center’s rediscovery of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing! is a great opportunity to see the play that transformed American theater. Awake and Sing! has ratings and 14 reviews. play. Life begins tomorrow for the anxious souls inhabiting an overstuffed Bronx apartment in Clifford Odets’s “Awake and Sing!” Or was it over long.
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But whether the drama about a Jewish family struggling in the Bronx to survive the Depression lives up to its myth as a lost masterpiece is open to question. The Bronx setting of working-class immigrants in Awake and Sing! It is that bruised place of the heart where the American Dream and disillusion meet in the land of opportunity and abundance. Disappointed hopes are oxygen to her. Her restless son Ralph, encouraged by his socialist grandfather, yearns to escape the airless domestic atmosphere.
The first words of the play belong to Ralph: More crucially for us, Odets described himself as a theater man—as opposed to a literary man—and his unaffected stage poetry, his direct pull on the emotions and unembarrassed open heart, were a profound influence on the young Tennessee Williams. For myself, however, Williams far surpassed the achievement of Awake and Sing! The historic importance of the Group Theatre plays of Odets is undeniable. But the production of Awake and Sing!
If only it were otherwise, I would be the first to awake and sing. But what was once perceived as a burning social document today uncomfortably hovers on the dangerous edge of sentimental melodrama. Certainly a play that revolves round the revelation of an unwanted pregnancy, a marriage of convenience, a suicide, a disputed insurance policy and newly ardent runaway lovers is pushing its luck a bit.
The street talk of the two-bit gangster, Moe the Gimp, still zings: I raise a family they should have respect.
You insult me, Bessie! He opens his mouth and the whole Bronx could fall in. But without the dollar who sleeps at night? This is why I tell you—DO! Do what is in your heart and you carry in yourself a revolution. But you should act. Not like me, a man who had golden opportunities but drank a glass of tea instead …. Pablo Schreiber as the young hero Ralph is too shrill and Ralph is a surprisingly underwritten role. The stage picture of the poverty-stricken Bronx home in Awake and Sing!
True, the matriarch of the play is house-proud, but nobody has lived in this house. The set is an act of bland nostalgia when hard, uncompromised reality is badly needed.
But then, the costumes by Catherine Zuber look new. The clothes these impoverished people wear have no frayed past. They have no history. Was the Group Theatre ever like this? I cannot imagine so. When, in the final moments of this prestigious revival, Ralph decides at last to leave home, he addresses us in these moving words: Did Jake die for us to fight about nickels?
Right here he stood and said it. The night he died. I saw it like a thunderbolt! I saw he was dead and I was born! I want the whole city to hear it—flesh, blood, arms. That, at least, is a remarkable speech—a direct, honest, authentic appeal to our emotions that conveys the unadorned, natural truth. It represents the best of Odets, and it achieves a true stage poetry.
But what does the director Mr.
Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets
His words alone no longer suffice. We need music to reinforce their meaning. For extra effect, the director has snow fall. Snow is meant to make the last moments of Awake and Sing!
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Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets
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