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LA Theater Review

Waiting for Lefty

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Hearkening back to an era when the birth of labor organizations was marked by violence and unbridled chicanery, Clifford Odets' groundbreaking treatise on societal inequities remains ever timely during America's current economic crisis. And yet, Odets' obvious leanings toward socialism, and the hindsight that some unions and guilds may have economically hamstrung their own industries, make this piece tricky to pull off. To their credit, director Charlie Mount and his strong ensemble handle this gritty material, foibles and all, with gutsy reverence.

In a series of flashback vignettes during a contentious organizing rally among a group of full- and part-time metropolitan cab drivers who as the title intimates are waiting for their proposed leader, Odets condemns the pressures of poverty, sexism, and ethics. Among this cast of 16 are several nicely drawn characterizations under Mount's firm directorial hand. Kristin Wiegand is remarkable as the wife of one such cabbie, capturing the essence of Depression-era panic as she threatens and cajoles her husband, played by Paul Gunning, to stand up and fight the company for the sake of his children and their marriage. Donald Moore provides an excellent glimpse into the soul of a laboratory technician faced with a financially remunerative temptation, presented by Roger Cruz, whose turn as Moore's oily supervisor is first-rate.

Jason Galloway wrenches the heart as a struggling actor, willing to take any role, who humbles himself to no avail before a pitiless producer, played by Alan Schack. Elizabeth Bradshaw, as a female physician, stoically runs into the thickest of glass ceilings in a scene with her superior, played with genuine compassion by Walter Beery. Perhaps the weakest of these scenes presents a pair of young lovers, played by Adam Conger and Heather Alyse Becker, whose protracted engagement, seemingly hampered by monetary concerns, packs very little emotional punch.

Though certainly dated in its subject matter, the play's parallels to modern issues are evident. And when Wiegand's character arrives with news of the never-seen titular character, it is the spark that lights the fuse on the cannon of change.

Presented by and at Theatre West, 3333 Caheunga Blvd. West, L.A. Sept. 3–Oct. 10. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (323) 851-7977. www.theatrewest.org.

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