Look Back in Anger | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Look Back in Anger



LOOK BACK IN ANGER, Rogue Theater, at Breadline Theatre Laboratory. In 1956 John Osborne shook up the theater world with this bitter cry of postwar frustration, the play that both put "angry young man" in the lexicon and spawned the whole kitchen-sink subgenre. Nowadays many of its complaints seem tame, dated, or obvious, but the character of Jimmy Porter remains one of drama's most lifelike, a fully realized creation whose every utterance trembles with desperation and rage. A simultaneous study in the inescapability of class and the intolerability of the "difficult" iconoclast, Look Back in Anger also offers a tragic little love story, which the Rogue company emphasizes in this intimate naturalistic staging.

All the actors are at least fairly good, but again and again something in their performances doesn't click. Sometimes overly measured or tentative, at other times they rush pivotal moments of wordless agony, squandering what should be the payoff for a lot of hard work. And a number of subtexts just plain get overlooked. When enough such near misses pile up, you tend to suspect the director, but Dan Taube is an old hand, so opening-night nerves might have been the culprit. Regardless, in the end this play stands or falls on its Jimmy, and Nate White gives a standout performance, thoroughly inhabiting the role.

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