28 February 2010: Odets, Waiting for Lefty

Matinee. American Repertory Theatre. Directed by Daniel Fish

Not a thrilling production of this sternly realistic play by the American Clifford Odets. The setting was a broad, very wide platform, requiring characters to walk long distances in the process of exiting, staying “on” in the process and slowing the pace of the action. To me this was reminiscent of a production of Orton’s Loot some years ago, set in an enormously wide living room that required the same kind of extra striding to exit and enter and noticeably retarding the pace. It’s crucial to have pace for a farce, but almost as much so if the style is kitchen sink realism, as interpreted by Odets. The play calls for cramped living quarters inhabited by a fair number of dwellers and, as well, by a lot of on-lookers and interlopers. On this broad set, characters who want to have a private conversation can simply drift over to an unused portion of the set; this is utterly foreign to the conjunction of characters living on top of one another, with virtually no privacy, as Odets envisions. Add to this that some of the actors were not projecting properly — the director’s fault, of course — perhaps because voices were being swallowed by the large open area to the back and sides, instead of being reflected by the walls of a scene.

Again, we fall afoul of the bleak reign of the auteur director. I’m tired to death of directors who think they are more important than the author and who want us to remember them instead of the playwright they ought to serve.


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An American Playgoer at Home by Joseph Donohue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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