WASHINGTONIAN• SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 • BY JANE HORWITZ
The dingy 1930s apartment splayed across the stage at Olney Theatre Center speaks, before the show ever starts, to the sort of proud impoverishment in which the Berger family of Clifford Odets’s Awake and Sing! lives. A Jewish family in the Great Depression-era Bronx, the Bergers are barely treading water, and scenic designer Jack Magaw nails it in one.
The blended odors of musty hallways and boiled cabbage don’t literally hang in the air, but they linger in the atmospherics of Olney’s highly satisfying, often soul-stirring production. Serge Seiden has directed an ensemble of some of the area’s best actors, and proved that Odets’s 1935 kitchen-sink drama about life on the underside of American capitalism can still pack a gut punch, 79 years after its debut with the legendary, politically vocal Group Theatre.
MD THEATRE GUIDE• SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 • BY STEVE CHARING
Anyone who had lived through the Great Depression could tell you how difficult and scary that time was. Not only was there real concern that one day you would lose the roof over your head or not being able to put food on the table but that these real fears and pressures could tear a family’s fabric to the point that dreams are tossed aside in order to live for the day. The Depression meant a severe economic downturn but it also meant a state of mind that resulted from it.
Such was the backdrop in Clifford Odets’ potent Depression-era drama-comedy Awake and Sing!that is now playing at the Main Stage of the Olney Theatre Center. In 1931 Odets, as an actor, was a founding member of the Group Theatre, a highly influential New York theatre company led by Lee Strasberg. Group employed a new acting technique in U.S. theatre that eventually was called “Method Acting.” Odets became the Group Theatre’s principal playwright, and in 1932, experiencing the financially bleak conditions during that period, began working on I Got the Blues, which turned into Awake and Sing!
DC METRO THEATER ARTS• SEPTEMBER 28, 2014 • BY PAUL M. BESSEL AND BARBARA BRASWELL
Clifford Odets’ 1935 turbulent drama Awake and Sing! is a stark portrayal of a dysfunctional Jewish family in the Bronx, New York City in the mid-1930s. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, there are occasional moments of humor, sweetness, and expressions of love. However, these moments are frequently overshadowed by gritty reality and verbal violence.
Olney Theatre Center’s production features powerful performances by a talented cast, under the direction of Serge Seiden. At times, the characters are talking at each other instead of to each other, in a soliloquy-like style. This device is very effective in highlighting the differences, resentments, and recriminations among the various family members.
Olney Theatre Center is a proud partner of Barrie School.
Olney Theatre Center is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. All programs are made possible by support from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County; the Maryland State Department of Education; and the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.