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New York City - Theatre

Clifford Odets
Awake and Sing!
March 2nd and 3rd at 8 p.m.
Matinee March 3rd at 2 p.m.
Zion Episcopal Church | Douglaston

Reviewed by Arlene McKanic

Watching Clifford Odets’ angry, funny play Awake and Sing! now presented by the Douglaston Community Theatre, the viewer gets the feeling that the 99 percent have been around for quite a long time. The play is set in the 1932 and 1933, during the worst of the Depression, and revolves around the tribulations of the Berger family of the Bronx.

The Bergers, like so many others, are broke and put upon by circumstances, by jobs that no longer exist or jobs that exist but are meaningless and barely help pay the bills. That they don’t seem as impoverished as they are is probably the work of the family matriarch, the testy and bitterly funny Bessie Berger, played with relish by Marilyn Welsher. Her home is tidy. There’s good china in the china closet, her dining table is draped with linen, the lighting is comfortable. This is good and perceptive work by director/set designer Teresa Zugger and lighting designer John Palmieri. Unfortunately, Bessie’s overwhelming personality has rendered her husband Myron (Al Carbuto) a bit of a cipher in his own home.

Bessie and her brother Morty (Marty Edelstein) are children of Jacob, a Marxist who considers himself a failure and tries to encourage his increasingly embittered grandson Ralph to find success, whatever success means. Success, at least in the first couple of acts, seems impossibly out of reach for Ralph’s older, combative sister Hennie, who’s married a naive immigrant and ends up saddled with a baby. Orbiting around this unhappy bunch is Moe Axelrod, a wounded war veteran who’s been in love with Hennie the way other men are in love with other kinds of dangerous pursuits, and Schlosser, the janitor. Interestingly, Schlosser, usually a male in other versions, is played with quiet compassion by Barbara Mavro.

Odets can be a bit talky, and to be honest not much happens in Awake and Sing! until the very end. Yet Zugger and her excellent cast keeps the audience engaged. Michael Wolf is heartwrenching as Jacob, who, Willy Loman-like, makes the decision that his family would be better off without him. Lisa Lawrence’s Hennie is almost as terrifying as Welsher’s Bessie; her husband, played with appropriate bewilderment by Dean Schildkraut, is no match for her. Cody Parham is also good as the frustrated, striving Ralph, while Eric Leeb’s Moe refuses to give up on his dreams, or Hennie, wooden leg or not. Carbuto almost disappears into the wallpaper as Myron, rightly so, while Edelstein gives Morty the smugness that comes from making it even when everyone else is sinking.

It is both tragic and heartening that Awake and Sing! is so relevant even today. It will be at the Zion Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Douglaston till Saturday, March 3.

Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $13 for senior citizens and students with ID.

Call 718-482-3332 to make reservations. Tickets will also be available at the door

Zion Episcopal Church |243-01 Northern Blvd.| Douglaston


Helen Joyce, Raphael Sacks, Andrew Broaddus
Photo Credit: Ben Sozanski

Erosion: A Fable
February 17 – 26, 2011
La MaMa (The Club)

Reviewed by Lisa Lewis

The Loom Ensemble’s richly textured dance theatre piece Erosion, is an apt fable for our economically and ethically troubled times.

In a remarkably coherent patchwork of music, theatre and dance, Erosion tells the story of a homeless woman with a surprising gift and the businessman who seeks to exploit it – but the judgment of these characters is wisely left to the audience. It’s rare that a work so topically driven avoids the soapbox, but Erosion manages a pointed argument without preaching.

Sasha Bogdanowitsch’s expressive soundscape blends choral chants with world music beats, creating a nearly meditative experience. That music, along with the repetitive, ritualistic motions of the dancers, gives the audience intellectual space to contemplate rather than simply swallow the play’s political messages and the movements aptly mirror the endless mechanical drive of the work-a-day world.

Choreography by Neva Cockrell offers up some clever interpretations of modern life, including office workers perched on chairs made of bent bodies, restless sleepers caught mid-nightmare, and city scenes that capture the isolation of urbanites on chaotic streets at rush hour. The drone buzz of the city, the arbitrary empathy of its denizens, the momentary breakthroughs of feeling, all represented here with haunting accuracy by the spare but evocative music and movement.

Particularly poignant is Zoe Anastassiou, as a homeless and pregnant beggar. Anyone who has chosen to favor a street performer with their spare change will recognize the self-righteous argument of the musician as he takes the dollars that might have otherwise gone to the homeless, expectant mother. Here, the company makes an incisive point about the free market competition at play, even in hustling dimes on the streets.

Co-founder Raphael Sacks brings his warm baritone and genial presence to the harmonies and leads this talented young troupe as they explore the conflict between making a living and living a moral life.

Featuring: Kate Hamilton, Sasha Bogdanowitsch, Helen Joyce, Zoe Anastassiou, Andrew Broaddus, Neva Cockrell, Mike O'Bauer, and Raphael Sacks. Set Design by Morgen Fleisig. Lighting Design by Kayla Goble. Costumes by Hannah Richey. Music by Sasha Bogdanowitsch. Choreography by Neva Cockrell. Assistant Director Katherine Pardue. Directed by Tomi Tsunoda at the La Mama Club thru February 26th.

For tickets and information visit

La MaMa (The Club) | 74A East 4 St.




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