The Playgoer: Awake and Sing

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Awake and Sing

As an Odets connoisseur, I am very excited by the announcement of the casting (as announced in Playbill) of the upcoming Lincoln Center production of Awake and Sing. Mark Ruffalo as tough guy Moe, that dynamo Zoe Wanamaker as Bessie (that Jewish mother from hell), and ol' method-veteran Ben Gazzara as grandpa Jacob, the conscience of the play. Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose and the genial Ned Eisenberg round it out nicely. To top it off, Bart Sher is a really, really fine director, as evinced not only in the hit Light in the Piazza, but in his stagings of Cymbeline and Granville-Barker's Waste for Theatre for a New Audience.

This is a play so shrouded in both legend and cliche, that it begs to be rediscovered for the moving, finely observed testament it is. Of course, as a family drama, its appeal is "universal"--but its real power lies in how directly and bluntly it captures the Jewish-American experience and the pressures of materialism in a time of economic distress. It also is arguably the font of all American stage naturalism that came after. In the right hands--in which it seems to be--it may be the sleeper hit of the season, reminding us of a time when theatre was about the real lives of average people.

More details here.

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