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Theater review: 'Waiting for Lefty' at Theatre West

September 9, 2010 |  2:00 pm

WaitingforLefty They’re not communists, they’re just broke: “Don’t tell me red,” growls a working stiff, “We’ve been kicked around so long we’re black and blue from head to toes.” A body can’t catch a break in “Waiting for Lefty,” Clifford Odets’ classic 1935 one-act about a group of New York taxi drivers debating whether to strike, now in revival at Theatre West.  Pacing designer Jeff Rack’s industrial meeting hall set, stripped of pride and a living wage, these Depression-era Americans stare down a bleak future that looks very much like our present.

Like “Our Town,” written around the same time, “Lefty” triumphs as a paean to Everyman virtues without sounding phony or sentimental. Odets offers sharply drawn vignettes of ordinary people at the end of their rope, from a desperate couple (Paul Gunning and Kristin Wiegand) who can’t feed their children, to a lab assistant (Donald Moore) who quits rather than inform on a fellow employee. This solid Chestnuts production, directed by Charlie Mount, benefits from tight pacing and passionate performances from the large ensemble(although having Dr. Benjamin played by a woman strains credulity). Mount’s own sound design conveys the anxious world outside the union meeting hall, echoing our own urgent era. Undeniably relevant.

--Charlotte Stoudt

“Waiting for Lefty” 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 10. $5-$25. Contact: (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. 

Photo: Heather Alyse Becker and Adam Conger in 'Waiting for Lefty.' Credit: Thomas Mikusz.

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