Awake and Sing! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Awake and Sing!


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Awake And Sing!, TimeLine Theatre Company. Clifford Odets's controversial repudiation of family values still burns at the heart of this 1935 protest play. The Bergers, an immigrant Jewish family living in the Bronx, are coming apart under the privations of the Depression. They've always been connected more by money than love, so now they're survivors without a cause, though Odets allows them one clean act of devotion: the socialist grandfather sacrifices himself to free his grandson from this cesspool of recrimination and guilt.

In this astonishingly faithful production, Noelle Hathaway's weathered apartment is accurate right down to the radiator, and Louis Contey's staging is taut and true. Both compassionate and unflinching, the cast delivers a family at terrible cross-purposes, the stunted souls of hard times who erupt in quarrels so real you want to intervene. As the life-sucking matriarch, Isabel Liss returns the Jewish-mother stereotype to its source, making her the vigilant protector in times of dire poverty. As her daughter, Beth Lacke is tough, even in her rough-and-tumble affair with the family boarder (played by David Parkes with a tense mix of bitterness and decency). Rich Baker as the grandfather conjures up a magnificent "rage against the dying of the light." And as the son who stands up to a lifetime of pinching and pecking, Jesse Weaver keeps this harrowing play remarkably real.

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