Mistakes Were Made at Act II Playhouse

Felix Artifex is a third rate theater producer who is trying to secure a Broadway production for what could be the biggest deal of his career. He has some financing from an unusual source and is trying to secure a contract with a popular movie star to be in the play about the French Revolution, written by a young, unknown playwright. “Mistakes Were Made” by Craig Wright,  which takes place in Felix’s office, consists of 75 minutes  of phone calls to and from everyone- from his ex-wife and his co-producer to the playwright, the star, and others ,while his unseen secretary, Esther, takes the calls and relays the information to Felix.

Also in the office is Denise, the large fish in a tank by the wall, who he talks to and constantly feeds despite warnings from Esther that the fish shouldn’t be fed. Essentially, it is a one-person show and though Felix talks with so many people on the phone, we never hear their voices- only his reaction to their wants and needs as he tries desperately to put together the production.

What we quickly discover is that Felix will go to any length to make this venture happen. We watch as he mollifies Johnnie Bledsoe, the star, who doesn’t want to play King Louis but seeks to have the play altered to include a child (played by him) and even eliminate King Louis from the tale. Felix tries to persuade the young playwright to rewrite the play. And he lies to everyone about the progress he is making. It is not one call after another, but three and four calls at a time.

While the mistakes in the title of the play refer to mistakes regarding the French Revolution, it is clear that there are a myriad of mistakes regarding the writing, the casting, the financing (which depends upon the sale of flocks of sheep in Arab lands being threatened by a revolutionary group) of the  production Felix is trying to mount. There is even a hint at a mistake Felix made regarding his daughter’s death. On top of that are the silly mistakes- Shakespeare made a mistake in not making his king the main character or the constant mistaking the name of Robespierre who Felix calls Pierre.

It is a very intense evening and it is challenging to follow all the calls that are on the many different phone lines coming in to the office, let alone the people Felix is putting on hold. It is funny for a while, but then becomes a bit overwhelming and tiring. There is a human element that is lacking in Wright’s play. He’s driving the story along one track when it could use more variation. We want to know more about Felix, about his family. We want to see not only his bravado but his angst.

Tony Braithwaite is masterful as Felix in the way he handles the barrage of phone calls and he has a superbly understated knack for handling the many comedic elements of the play. I can’t think of another actor who could pull off such a piece. But his acting wasn’t enough to carry the play for 75 minutes I just wish I could do what Felix is trying to do in the play with the young playwright- convince the author of “Mistakes were Made” to rework the play.

“Mistakes Were Made” by Craig Wright at Act II Playhouse, 56, E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA 19002, 215-654-0200, www.act2.org. Thru April 16, 2023.

A View From the Bridge at New Light Theatre

Eddie Carbone, an Italian-American, is a longshoreman, working at the docks  of Brooklyn in the 1950’s. He lives with his wife, Beatrice, and their orphaned 17-ear-old niece, Catherine. They are about to welcome Beatrice’s cousins who are coming to America from Italy, seeking work. They are illegal immigrants. That’s how Arthur Miller’s, “A View From the Bridge” opens. Before it ends, we will get a look at the view of the feelings of the five characters as they struggle with their confusing but powerful emotions.

            New Light Theatre is presenting the Miller classic in the intimate Black Box Theater at OperaDelaware Studios in Wilmington, Delaware. The theatre in the round brings us up close to the action where we can feel the pain of each character. Megan Bellwoar has assembled a fine ensemble led by John Jezior as Eddie Carbone.

            When we meet the Carbones in their home, they are arguing about whether or not Catherine, who is the best student in her class, should take the school principal’s recommendation to leave school a year early (she will still get her graduation certificate the next year) to take a job as an assistant secretary, that will pay her $50 per week. Eddie wants to protect her daughter and doesn’t want her working yet. Catherine wants to earn her own money and become a woman.

            Eddie also complains about the length of his niece’s new skirt, which he feels will attract the wrong sort of boys. All this comes into sharper focus when the cousins arrive. The older brother wants to work hard to get enough money to help his family and return to them in a few years. The younger one, Rodolpho, hopes to remain in the U.S. And when a romance seems to be developing between him and Catherine, Eddie sees it as a ploy to marry her to gain U.S. citizenship.

            We watch and we wonder- is Eddie’s concern for his niece that of a typical parent (he has no kids and has raised Catherine with his wife) as the child becomes independent, or is he jealous, even obsessed with her. Is Rodolpho truly in love with Catherine or is he using her.

            The play is introduced by Alfieri, who serves like a Greek chorus in classical plays, providing information but also commenting on the events as they unravel. He is also the lawyer who Eddie goes to for help. But Alfieri repeatedly tells Eddie he can do nothing.

            Therein lies a cornerstone of the Miller play- when to speak up and when to be silent. In the aftermath of the McCarthy hearings where many (including Miller’s friend Elia Kazan) named names of those who might have had Communists ties, we wonder whether Carbone will report to the FBI about the illegal immigrants to protect his daughter… Or would he be protecting himself.

            Jezior along with Elsa Kegelman who plays his daughter give the most riveting performances, but Trice Baldwin-Browns as his wife Beatrice and David Pica as Marco, the older brother Marco were also formidable in their supporting roles. There is angst. There is passion. There is power. New Light Theatre has brought it all to Delaware.

“A View From the Bridge” at New Light Theatre performed at OperaDelaware Studios, 4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington, De 19801, www.newlighttheatre.com  Thru March 26, 2023

The Tempest at Quintessence Theatre

“The Tempest,” written in 1611, is believed to be one of the last plays that William Shakespeare wrote alone. It takes place on a small island somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, after a storm, a tempest, shipwrecks a ship. We soon learn that the storm was created by Prospero, with his magical powers. He has been exiled with his daughter, Miranda, for many years from his Milan dukedom by his brother, Antonio, with the aid of Alonso, the King of Naples. They were among those on the ship which washed ashore.

            There are many stories to follow. Prospero seeks to be restored to his dukedom. Some want Prospero dead. There are plots to kill others. There is the budding romance between Prospero’s daughter and Ferdinand, son of Alonso.

            It’s a complex play with a complex plot. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies, or histories, but a kind of tragicomedy and director Alex Burns has assembled a fine cast to pull it off successfully, without altering the original text. And he has it done with a team of designers who are outstanding. The masks created by the Barbaric Yawp Workshop and the spectacular costumes of Jane Casanave are powerful and beautiful!  As for the cast, they are outstanding.

            Lawrence Pressman heads the group as Prospero. A distinguished actor of stage and screen, he has appeared in so many films and tv series for over 50 years,  it would take pages to list them. He is the anchor around whom we learn of the other traitorous villains he must deal with. They are angry, they are drunk, they are desperate. They are larger than life. But Pressman’s Prospero, though he possesses supernatural powers, is most natural, most real.

            Four of the characters are wearing villainous, commedia dell’arte masks and play several roles. The power of their voices and their physicality, more than makes up for our not seeing the emotion on faces in Quintessence’s very intimate theater space. We hear and see how they feel.

            I cannot say enough about the costumes. They are worth the price of admission alone. Casanave has been doing costumes for Quintessence for several years, and I can’t imagine how she will do it better than what she has done for “The Tempest.” And with actors playing multiple roles, it must be quite a task when they step off stage and quickly don another costume.

            One of the simplest series of costumes was worn by Pat Moran, playing Ariel, the airy spirit who Prospero has invested with magical powers to do his bidding. It is a joy to watch him move about the simple raised stage in the theater in the round. He provides much of the comic relief in both his movement and his expressions (he does not wear a mask). Even his many unitards (full length leotards) make us smile- they are beautifully designed.  

            There is just one suggestion I would make to theater goers. It’s a long play. If you are not familiar with the story, particularly the opening scene after the shipwreck, I strongly recommend you read a summary of the play.  It will not spoil the experience. When I was in high school and in college, if I didn’t know the basic story of Shakespeare’s play which seemed like it was written in a different language,  I read a summary.

“The Tempest” at Quintessence Theatre, 7137 Germantown Ave., Phila, PA 19119, 215-987-4450. http://www.quintessencetheatre.org  Thru April 2, 2023.

Thurgood at People’s Light

            Thurgood Marshall was the 76th associate justice appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States after the Court was created by the Constitution over 175 years before. He was also, the first African-American to serve there. His story of fighting to end racism, beginning with growing up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, is the subject of this one-man play at People’s Light. It is a very good play about an extraordinary man.

            It begins with the elderly Marshall, limping with a cane, directly addressing us, the audience of the Howard University Law School, and telling of his giving 50 years to the law. But it also a history of racism in the Unites States.

We learn that he was born in 1908, the year that Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world. Sadly, his victory led to race riots and lynchings over the next year. The following year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded.

            Then, Marshall dispenses with the cane, stands up straight, and takes us through the racism he experienced. After graduating from the Colored High and Training School, he attended Lincoln College where one of his classmates was the poet, Langston Hughes. Upon graduating, he sought to attend the University of Maryland Law School, but was rejected because he was a Negro. It was 1930. The infamous Supreme Court 1896 decision in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case, which declared “separate but equal”- a legal separation of the races- to be the law of the land. It would remain so for another 24 years.

            Marshall attended Howard University to gain his law degree, and then spent the rest of his life fighting in the courts and overturning racist law after law. Playwright George Stevens, Jr. takes us through many of these cases. It is most interesting but at times a bit overwhelming, as we often feel we are not watching a play but listening to a lecture. Still, it is fascinating as we learn so much about what preceded the 1954 landmark case, Brown vs Board of Education.  I discovered it was actually argued twice, first in 1952, then again, after the Chief Justice of the Court died and was replaced by Earl Warren.

            Ironically, the last half hour, which is about Marshall’s appointment to the Court of Appeals by John F. Kennedy, his selection by Lyndon Johnson to be Solicitor General and then to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, seemed like an afterthought. I had been more interested in the information in the first hour and about Marshall’s family, about his real name, Thoroughgood and about his early struggles.

            The play was filled with information and I always enjoy learning when I see a play with historical significance. But it was presented without a sense of drama. They told us things that I would have preferred they showed me with more interaction between Marshall and the people he was talking to or with. I would have liked to see better the photos that were occasionally flashed on walls, but were distorted by the walls of the set. And since the play was not in a smaller, more intimate theater space, I would have appreciated if they’d miked Brian Marable, who gives a solid performance as Thurgood Marshall.

            Reviewing a play is often complicated. I loved so much about the play, but as a theater critic, I wanted a little more theater. “Thurgood” at People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Rd., Malverne, PA 19355, 610-644-3500,  peopleslight.org   Thru March 19, 2023

The Lifespan of a Fact at Lantern Theater

With a title like “Lifespan of a Fact,” I knew I had to see the latest production by Lantern Theater Company. There seemed to be so many possibilities. It turned out those possibilities or facts, were the fabrication used to enhance an essay that John D’Agata wrote for a magazine. And when fact-checker Jim Fingal is assigned to make sure that the information, slated to appear in the magazine is accurate, things begin to unravel. It’s a most interesting story that deals with fake news… or is it.

            D’Agata has written about a suicide of a young man, from the tower at the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. In it are loads of details- the number of deaths in Vegas that day, the number of strip clubs that closed that week, claiming a woman was visiting from Mississippi when she was a Las Vegas resident. He has a thing for numbers and alters the facts so they fit into his esoteric vision. Often, he is telling half-truths. “The wrong facts get in the way,” he says at one point. We discover this because the magazine editor, Emily Penrose has selected Fingal,  an intern at the magazine to corroborate it all before it goes to press.

            Fingal is a Harvard grad who wants to rise in the publishing ranks. He is meticulous. He does more research than D’Agata. He interviews people. He checks the newspapers. He even flies out to Las Vegas. He questions the cantankerous D’Agata, then challenges him. D’Agata resents that a young kid who is challenging him. He tells him that facts are not pure. But Fingal does not accept the writer’s compromising truth for what he says is art. When he reports back to Penrose, she has a dilemma. She had a deadline and D’Agata’s story IS a powerful one. How much fact checking does she want?

            Most of the 90 minute play revolves around the arguments between the writer and the fact checker. It is a very interesting for a while. It is full on lots of one-line zingers. But it quickly gets tiresome for me. The play is an interesting analysis of the kind of liberty a writer has when writing, not fiction, but a factual essay. In fact, the production felt like a long essay itself.

Perhaps it would be an interesting one-act piece, I thought. But for it be a successful full length play, it needed more. Director Matt Pfeiffer has not given us that extra dimension, that it needed- feeling. What are the characters thinking as the scuffle? Ian Merriill Peakes did give us that in his portrayal of D’Agata, but Trevor William Fayle as Fingal, simply spit out line after line of his discoveries about the fraud. Even Joanna Liao’s Penrose could have shown us more angst in the awkward position she found herself.

The play has been successful in its many productions since it first appeared on Broadway in 2018. I would love to see it again with a deeper look into the characters.

“The Lifespan of a Fact” at Lantern Theater Co., St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Phila., PA 19107, 215-829-0395, www.lanterntheater.org  Thru March 5, 2023.

Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage at Camden Repertory Theater

I recently received an invitation by a theater company in Camden, New Jersey, that I’d never heard of to see a play I’d never heard of. I was hesitant but also curious, even more so when I learned that the theater, Camden Repertory Theater performed in the living room of a row home. But upon reading about the play, “Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While A Bird Dies In A Gilded Cage,” and learning that it was originally produced in Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival in 1977, I became intrigued. I wanted to see this rarely produced play. I made the trek into New Jersey and couldn’t have been more rewarded by this unusual play.

            There were only a dozen chairs along one wall of the house where the audience sat. In the back was a jazz band. They were there to play many the songs of and in the style of Charlie Parker, the great jazz sax saxophonist, composer, and band leader. Through the play, Parker sits on one end of the performance space with Pasha, his wealthy patroness who is devoted, even one might say obsessed with him. But she does take care of him. She is constantly begging him to impregnate with her. She also provides him with drugs, a habit he’s had all his adult life.

            Through the conversations with her, we learn of his despair, his frustrating life, despite being one of the greatest jazz musicians of all-time. But he can’t even enter clubs when he is not performing because he is Black.

            The play takes place on the day Charlie “Bird” Parker died in 1955, at the age of 34. And on the main part of the stage that day, we are in the Hide-a-Wee Home for Unwed Mothers. Four pregnant teens and a fifth, who just had a baby, reside there. They are all Charlie Parker fans. But music isn’t what’s on their minds. Their concern is what will they do with their babies!

            Each of the women describes the circumstances in which she got pregnant. From a one-night stand with a guy she met at a dance, to a  promiscuous girl who loves sex, to another who was raped, there is also wide range of the men who impregnated them. The bottom line is that none of those men are around- not even the one who fathered the child currently at the Home, though the girl, the mother of the baby awaits his arrival.

            These girls hate that women are categorized as whores or saints, depending on their sexuality. They talk about what love is to them. One of their fathers insists that his daughter give up the baby for adoption. They aren’t sure what to do. The nurse in charge is constantly reminding them that they must sign adoption papers. She is a devout Christian, but she too has her story.

            There are loud arguments among the girls. They squabble all the time, and as we are so close to them, we feel the power of their frustrations and anger. Charlie Parker is also struggling with Pasha as the scenes shift back and forth. What these girls and Parker have in common is the burning desire to be free.

            Playwright Aishah Rahman has created a slice… no slices of life that we don’t usually see. She was a foster child in Harlem herself. She has seen these lives and she brings it powerfully to us in this formidable play, seamlessly directed by Chynah Michele at Camden Repertory. If you’ve never been to Camden, now there is a reason to go!

“Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird in a Gilded Cage” at Camden Repertory Theater, 445 Mechanic St., Camden, NJ 08104,  856-438-8430  camdenrep.com   thru March 25, 2023

Steel Magnolias at Act II Playhouse

Set in a beauty salon in a small Louisiana town in the 1980’s, “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling, revolves around its owner Truvy, her new assistant, Annelle, and four other women, who come regularly to the salon to get their hair done, but more significantly, to talk. One is a wealthy widow, Clairee, who has recently lost her husband. There are the mother and  daughter, M’Lynn and Shelby, who are always bickering with each other. There is the cranky curmudgeon, Ousier, always complaining about something.   The newcomer, Clairee has a mysterious past. The show was so successful off-Broadway and moved to Broadway where it played for almost three years. In 1989, it was adapted for film with Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, and Daryl Hannah.

            The play is a comedy-drama and is filled with lots of one-liners (usually about men) and drama (which gets under way in the second scene). While the six women were outstanding in the portrayal of these characters and they become more complex as the play went on, I did feel at times that some of the comedy was dated, almost too cute, and resembled more of a tv sitcom than interesting theater. And yet, I was engrossed in each of the stories as the characters got richer and richer.

            Next door to the salon is Shelby’s father (a man we never meet), who is constantly firing his gun in the air, setting off the barking of Ousier’s dog. She complains about that and everything else, from her two former husbands, to the tourists who park on her lawn during a festival. Yet we come to love her anyway. She is so nonchalant about it and she is a riot, brilliantly played by Penelope Reed.

Shelby, who is getting married, has diabetes, and was told she shouldn’t have children, but she does. That creates more serious problems for her.

            Annelle has embraced Christianity to cope with her life that we learn about from incessant questions from the others in the salon.  While she is serious, there is humor in the way the others deal with her.

            The salon is like the old neighborhood bar that men frequented. While it would be easy to dismiss the talk of the women as merely gossip, they are having some serious discussions about life and the way to live it… or at least cope with it.

            In less capable hands, this play could turn into a predictably caricaturist representation of these women. But Director Megan Bellwoar has assembled such a strong ensemble and has guided them to powerful performances.  They are truly magnolias made of steel.

“Steel Magnolias” at Act II Playhouse, 56, E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA 19002, 215-654-0200, www.act2.org. Thru February 26, 2023.

The Last Parade at InterAct Theatre

When we think about immigrants trying to come to the U.S., we immediately conjure up images of Latinos at our southern border trying to get into the country. Over the years, immigrants have sought to come to America to escape their difficult lives and start anew. Quotas to keep foreigners out have regularly stopped them. In the play, “The Last Parade” at InterAct Theatre Company, we encounter a Jewish family in Kiev in 1991, that is trying to get out of Russia. It is a most powerful drama as each person wants, no needs a different scenario to try to go on with his or her life. This world premier by Stephanie Satie is the story of these five people and it is one of the best ensemble pieces I have ever seen.

            The family consists of a mother, a father, two grown children, and a grandfather. The mother, Zoya, has just received the ok from the Israeli government that the family can go to Israel. She is thrilled. But the daughter, Anya has dreamed of going to the United States, more so, since a visit with her aunt, who migrated to California a few years earlier. She hates the idea of going to Israel and has even gotten a lottery ticket, which if she wins, will give the family passage out of Russia and to America. Mother and daughter argue over their differences, but also over the timing of their emigrating, since there are deadlines that conflict.

            The son, Borya, is hesitant to leave at all. He is managing better than the rest as he is employed by the Russian mob and gets certain privileges. When he visits his family, he always brings presents for all, including food, to stock the refrigerator. He is also the occasional narrator and though the characters speak with American accents- though we know they are speaking Russian-  when he talks to the audience, he speaks with a Russian accent.

            The grandfather, Yasha, lives with the family. He tries to manage, but it is a struggle for this aging man. Jews had already been getting out or trying to get out of Russia and Ukraine since the 1880’s. But in 1991, it had become harder to get an invitation to come to the U.S. and just as hard to get an exit visa. Yasha offers a kinder, gentler approach to the family struggle, but we understand he will go along with whatever the family decides.

            Applying for a visa meant that the Russian authorities knew you were trying to leave. As a result, though the country seemed to welcome the departure of Jews, they were also losing many professionals. They often punished those who were trying to leave, including Leon, a scientist, and the father in this story.

Leon’s story is the most complicated of all.  We watched as this clearly depressed man tries to figure out just what to do. We learn that when a child, he lost his father who died with some 30,000 other Jews in a mass killing by the Nazis with Ukrainian assistance at Babi Yar.  But even he has confused feelings about leaving.

            What makes this play so fascinating is the way Satie seamlessly interweaves the stories. We are watching more than five characters; we are peering in at a family as it tries to cope with the choices they must make to create a safe future. We are constantly wondering what will happen next just as they are. Life is a parade, says one of the characters and we are wondering which parade route will they take.

            This review would not be complete without kudos to the incredibly strong cast. Rather than single out each has portrayed a very real character with a powerful performance. Director Seth Rozin has put together an amazing production with a play that he found on a website, a play that had never been produced before, and directed it so effectively, that I am sure than when other theaters around the country learn of it, it will be produced across the U.S.A.

“The Last Parade” InterAct Theatre Company at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks St., Philadelphia, PA 19102, 215-568-8079.   interacttheatre.org   Thru February 19, 2023.

Broads at 1812 Productions

Four years ago, 1812 Productions began their season with a comedy revue called “Broads.” It was a compilation of bits curated by their Producing Artistic Director, Jennifer Childs from the careers of women comics, from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.  The multi-talented Childs also added new material to the mix of jokes, routines, and songs. Now, they are bringing back that and am so glad that I have gotten a chance to see this uproarious review featuring many of the rebels of comedy from Mae West, Moms Mabley, and Sophie Tucker to other trailblazers who opened the doors for today’s comediennes.  

            The show is bold. It is naughty. It is bawdy. These are the women who didn’t play by the accepted standards of they day. These were women who were smart- no brilliant! They are BROADS and proud of it. They break the rules. They write and perform material that is often banned. Mae West spent eight days in jail for her show, “Sex,” after it had been panned by all the papers, yet sold out for a year and was frequented by society men and women.

            Much of their humor is about the man’s penis though the word is never mentioned. We learn of a song by Clara Smith about making a dead man come. Spinach is the metaphor used in the hilarious 1930’s song, “I Didn’t Like it the First Time.”

            There were so many one liners and fast jokes, the audience was in stitches. Yet though it was a revue, it flowed seamlessly as Melanye Finister, Rebecca Robbins, and Mary Elizabeth Scallen delivered the jokes and sang the songs without trying to imitate the old stars. Instead, they were just giving us the feel, the joy of extraordinary women. And they gave us something else, something important- they gave us the history.

            That may sound intimidating but it is not, thanks to the marvelous manner in which Childs has researched the backgrounds of the women and then, integrated it between jokes and songs that let me learn as I laughed.

            There was a vaudeville circuit for African-Americans who usually weren’t allowed to perform in white clubs. Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters got their starts there. Mae West wasn’t just a beautiful bawdy actress with a few famous lines that we all remember. She was a playwright and a screenwriter and she spoke out for gay rights back in the ‘20’s. Sophie Tucker joked and sang about how she didn’t need to look like Hollywood starlets- Nicknamed “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” she was happy with her heavy frame.

            I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mark Randall, the onstage pianist who provided the music to accompany three talented and wonderful actors. The softness of his accompaniment was perfect.   

            And Jen Childs is simply amazing. She created a comedy theater 25 years ago and it as strong as ever! What a talent!! Thank you, Jen, for giving us “Broads.”  I loved every minute of the 75 minute show. You will too.

“Broads” at 1812 Productions     Plays and Players Theatre,  1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, PA 19103,   215-592-9560   1812productions.org     Thru February 26, 2023

Waiting For Lefty at Quintessence Theatre

“Waiting for Lefty” is a short play, consisting of seven scenes that revolve around a taxi driver’s strike that occurred in 1934. . Written a year later, playwright Clifford Odets has put together vignettes of the lives of those at that initial union meeting. Though the play is only an hour long, it is a powerful story of  families struggling to survive in the throes of the Depression. Sadly, the Quintessence production falls short in many ways.

            In 1935, with so many people starving or barely eking out a living, the Communist Party in America was trying to offer a viable alternative to what they saw as the wealthy elite living high off the backs of the workers.  And unionism was often associated with Communism.

We meet a woman, ready to leave her husband after their furniture has been repossessed for missing a payment, to return to an old boyfriend who is earning a decent living. We learn of another woman who will only keep her job is she spies on her boss. We see Irv who is telling his sister to leave the man she intends to marry because he doesn’t earn enough. We encounter Dr. Benjamin who is removed from the surgery he was to do on a woman in the charity ward because he has been replaced by an incompetent doctor who is related to a senator. (The woman dies, the hospital closes the charity ward, and the Jewish Dr. Benjamin is fired.)

At the union meeting, the union boss is still discouraging a strike. Is he connected to the racketeers that many feel are controlling the union? The drivers aren’t sure what to do. They are waiting for their trusted representative, Lefty to guide them.

It is obvious that he has the nickname, Lefty, because of his political affiliation., but no one ever mentions it. Others, who express sympathy for the poor, are just called Reds. It is a challenging time. But in spite of it all, I didn’t feel for the characters. They were either miscast, misdirected, or just not in touch with the people they are portraying.

In the first vignette at the meeting, many of the men were played by women who just didn’t pull it off. It was distracting. In the second vignette, the man was too young to be portraying a man who had fought in World War I, some 17 years earlier. But my biggest issue with most of the scenes was that characters were just talking fast and yelling. Their expressions of frustration were without  feeling, without angst. And worse, I missed about 20% of the dialogue in several scenes as the actors spit out their lines. I didn’t know what they were talking about.

Was it because I am just an old guy with hearing issues, I wondered? But at the end, I asked the three people sitting behind me if they had any issues hearing or understanding what was being said on the stage that is so very close. They each expressed the same problem I had, one saying “I didn’t know what was going on much of the time.”

When I got home, before I sat down to write the review, I called friends of mine who’d seen the show the night before. Same thing. I felt saddened by my inability to enjoy a play that was so important in its day. Perhaps, because it is early in the run, the situation will be corrected. I hope so.

“Waiting for Lefty” at Quintessence Theatre, 7137 Germantown Ave., Phila, PA 19119, 215-987-4450. http://www.quintessencetheatre.org  Thru February 12, 2023.