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Liberation Iannillo


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Wendy R. Williams'
Theater Column
Wendy R. Williams


Greetings Theater Lovers,

This month I saw two plays: the long running Stomp and the Lincoln Center revival of Clifford Odet’s play, Awake and Sing.

First Stomp: Stomp is a lot of fun; I took my twelve-year-old niece and she just loved it. Stomp has been running since 1994 and presently is playing in New York, Los Angeles, London and San Francisco. There is also a touring company. The show is all-percussion-all-the-time, performed by some amazingly talented, multi-ethnic drummers who are also mime-like clowns. There is not one single word of spoken dialogue or sung lyrics during the show, but nevertheless, the cast performs some incredibly funny comedy skits. Stomp has a huge international following; you can enjoy it without knowing a single word of English. The night I was there, the audience seemed to be half “spring breakers” and half international tourists. We all had a blast. And the seemingly seen-much-better-days Orpheum Theater is a perfect venue for a show with this much street creed.


Stomp

The New York based Stomp features the following performers: Sean "Physical Ed" Wards; Fritzlyn Hector; Brad Holland; Stephanie Marshall; Keith "Wild Child" Middleton; Yako Miyamoto; Raymond Poitier; Marivaldo Dos Santos; Camille A. Shuford; Mike Silvia; Elec Simon; Carlos Thomas; and Fiona Wilkes. Stomp was created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.

Stomp plays in New York at the Orpheum Theatre, 126 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003. Tickets are $37.00-$65.00 at www.ticketmaster.com and 212-307-4100. The schedule is: Tuesdays – Friday at 8PM; Saturday 7PM and 10:30PM; and Sunday  3:00PM & 7:00PM Check www.theatermania.com for discounts.

Next I saw Clifford Odet’s depression-era dram, Awake and Sing, which opened on April 17, 2006 for an open run at the Belasco Theatre. Awake has an incredible cast: Lauren Ambrose as Hennie Berger; Ned Eisenberg as Uncle Morty; Ben Gazzara as Jacob; Jonathan Hadary as Myron Berger; Peter Kybart as Schlosser; Mark Ruffalo as Moe Axelrod; Pablo Schreiber as Ralph Berger; Richard Topol as Sam Feinschreiber; and Zoe Wanamaker as Bessie Berger. Awake is directed by Bartlett Sher.


Awake and Sing

The night I attended, I was in line behind a large group of older theatergoers who were laughing about fact that they thought they would be part of an audience filled with “old Communists.” Awake was originally performed by the now legendary Group Theater which was formed in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, thus the laughing reference to old Communists.

Here is a quote from the Lincoln Center press release: “ Generally considered Clifford Odet's finest play, Awake and Sing! was originally performed by the notable Group Theater on Broadway in 1935. By turns starkly dramatic and vividly comic, it is the story of the Bergers, a lower-middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Depression. Odets, who described his play as “a struggle for life amid petty conditions,” captures the frenetic, pressured existence in this crowded dwelling with robust authenticity.”

All the cast give wonderful performances (look at the list and you can see why). Zoe Wanamaker’s performance as the matriarch Bessie Berger is the heart of the show. Wanamaker aptly plays a basically decent woman who has been forced to become venal and petty by constant deprivation and the lack of hope. Ben Gazarra also gives a poignant performance as the grandfather Jacob, a man who has enough love left in his heart that he is still willing to sacrifice so that there can be hope for the younger generation of the family. And of course it was a lot of fun to see Indie darlings Lauren Ambrose and Mark Ruffalo as the not-so-charming lovers. When they come to the end-of-their-story-line, it is easy to see that this “epiphany” will most definitely not be the end-of-their-story-line.

Awake and Sing plays at the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. Tickets are $51.25-$86.25 - 212-239-6200 and www.telecharge.com. The schedule is: Tuesdays – Friday at 8PM; Saturday 7PM and 10:30PM; and Sunday  3PM & 7PM.

Rock on,

Wendy


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