Theater review: 'Waiting for Lefty' at Theatre West
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.
“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.