Move over, Godot
Waiting for Lefty
Frank Condon has an uncanny knack for producing timely plays. But even Condon must be amazed at the rather disconcerting timeliness of his current production, Waiting for Lefty. This play, written during the Great Depression about the economic downturn in the 1930s that left the country reeling, opened last week during the worst financial tailspin this country has experienced, well, since the Great Depression.
However, to paraphrase the Bard, the play’s only half the thing going on in this River Stage production. Director Condon has taken this rather short play (50 minutes long) and bookended it with powerful opening slide show of heartbreaking Great Depression photos and a spirited aftershow discussion about unions, big business, greed and our current financial disaster.
The result is an evening of thought and talk, with timely references to unemployment, evictions and lack of affordable health care.
Waiting for Lefty, written in 1935 by playwright Clifford Odets, is set during a union meeting where taxi drivers are voting whether to strike, so we get impassioned speeches from both sides that touch on the current political campaigns—fearmongering, character assassinations, insult slinging. Interspersed are personal vignettes of those involved.
There are powerful performances that pull the audience in, helped by addressing the audience as fellow cab drivers and peppering the aisles with actors. A bare-bones set and period music and costumes help set the tone. And the tone is bleak, as art eerily reflects life, and now life reflects art.