Hard times can make hard people. Which is why Clifford Odets thought decent folks had to break free from the pull of money and of things, had to find a good that connected rather than divided. Louis Contey's riveting revival of this 1935 depiction of a Depression-era clan that's failing for lack of love is a potent antidote to false nostalgia. The superb ensemble is as tight as the material deserves. The principal cast change since last fall's production by TimeLine Theatre Company is Scott Jay replacing Jesse Weaver as the freethinking Berger son, who ultimately rejects his mother's need to reduce every relationship to a transaction. "A boy should have respect for his own future" is the golden advice given by his sacrificing grandfather, to be reprised by the superb Rich Baker. Noelle C.K. Hathaway's time-capsule parlor set conjured up a domestic prison, and Theatre on the Lake can promise only props. But the payoff is in the painful yet liberating discovery that these family members don't deserve one another. As Arthur Miller rediscovered a decade later in All My Sons, there are higher loyalties than kith and kin. Theater on the Lake, Fullerton and Lake Shore Drive, 312-742-7994. Opens Wednesday, July 30, 7:30 PM. Through August 3: Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 6:30 PM. $15.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lara Goetsch.