I'm working on a new show this week called Awake and Sing! It's a revival of a play by Clifford Odets, starring Lauren Ambrose, Zoe Wanamaker, Ben Gazzara, and Mark Ruffalo. It's part of the Lincoln Center Theater subscription series. More so than most other shows I've worked on, the patrons attending this play are mostly over 60 years of age. I've been handing out headsets hand over fist. And the show, although very good for the most part, is excessively long. It's three acts and there are two intermissions. No one writes three-acts any more. The more common trend is two-acts or one-acts even like the play ART.
On the fun side, this is one of those shows where a lot goes on before the theater is opened for walk-in. For example, before the Wednesday matinee, Lauren Ambrose practiced slapping Mark Ruffalo - for one of the climaxes of the second act, where most of the play takes place.
Wednesday night, I left the theater via the stage entrance and had to walk past Zoe Wanamaker. She's been working for quite some time. The ealiest performance I've seen of hers was in Prime Suspect, the BBC mini series starring Helen Mirren. She's truly wonderful and she's English. I only say that she's English because walking past her, I heard her speaking with a British accent. In Awake and Sing! she plays Bessie Berger, a Jewish mother of two living in the Bronx with her extended family during the depression. And by that I mean, she sounds like she could do 5 minutes of standup at one of those venues in the Borscht Belt which I don't think exists anymore.
Last night, I walked through the stage door with Lauren Ambrose. It was awkward. I always feel oafish and clumsy around stars. I would rather just avoid them altogether. Anyway, Lauren Ambrose plays Hennie Berger, Bessie's only daughter who gets into 'trouble' in the first act and by trouble, I mean pregnant. She is amazing in her Broadway debut. She's made me cry the last three performances I've watched. Talk about throwing yourself into a role. She's completely believable.
Both look in person exactly as they look on screen.
If you like a good old fashioned stage play, I recommend strongly that you see this show. It is a little dated and sometimes lags when Ben Gazzara as Jacob, grandfather to the Berger children, starts rallying against the evils of capitalism. His character apparently has read of lot of books about individual rights, slavery, capitalism and Marx. It's those times that you can really see how old this play is because Odets heroic grandfather character, rails against capitalism with the same passion that Ayn Rand's heroes rail against communism.
But don't let that be a discouragement. It's an excellent time capsule for the 1930's.