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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents "Look Back in Anger" by John Osborne at Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/ Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents "Look Back in Anger" by John Osborne at Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/ Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre

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Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director

Look Back in Anger

By John Osborne
Directed by Sam Gold

Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY
(Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Website)

Adam Driver, Sarah Goldberg
Charlotte Parry, Matthew Rhys

Set Design: Andrew Lieberman
Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Bray Poor
Production Stage Manager: Megan Smith
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
Carrie Gardner, CSA
Production Management: Aurora Productions
General Manager: Rachel E. Ayers
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 3, 2012

On the narrowest stage in history, with the backdrop nearly at the audience, four actors proceed to grate and torture themselves and the audience in one of the most unpleasant productions this season. I expected havoc, in this 1956 Sam Gold directed play, by John Osborne, but I did not expect grueling, violent vulgarity, not to mention relentless domestic violence, with a victimized wife, who chooses to seek revenge by seductively kissing her husbandís friend, in plain view. Sheís a masochist and reaches deep into her husbandís psyche to inflame him into expanded rage, an unnecessary feat, as heís already enraged, a condition burned into his skin. And speaking of burning, one of his rages, at the edge of this best forgotten stage, causes his wife serious burns from her iron, as she presses his shirt and pants. This Roundabout Theater Company production was, unexpectedly, truly torture, fictionally and literally.

Matthew Rhys is Jimmy Porter, in the Midlands, Britain, and his one room flat has spoiled crumbs and pieces of food, dirty newspapers, light bulbs, and laundry strewn all about the floor. An old wooden bureau sits stage left, and a quasi doorway is placed stage right. Jimmyís wife, Alison (Sarah Goldberg), was bred of better stock, so to speak, as was her best friend, Helena Charles (Charlotte Parry). The fourth brooding character, Cliff Lewis (Adam Driver), shacks up in this seamy abode. Jimmy has dire self-concept issues, drawn from vast social strata differences between his family and Alisonís. The extended family dramas are all offstage with news arriving now and then about illness and the need for one character to leave this treacherous, thin stage. The concept of treachery is metaphorical for the violence and lust that ensue in seamless exhaustion. This one room flat is treacherous to all who enter.

Mr. Driver spends a great deal of time curled up, brooding, or fondling Alison, protecting her from Jimmy. Jimmy sits stage right playing an old cornet, in high pitched atonality. He also enables the classy Helena to morph into a vamp, as couples switch partners in this suffocating dance of life. Mr. Rhys, in his New York theater debut, comes from Wales, and listening to his accent was the highpoint of the evening, trying to conjure up a vision of the feisty Richard Burton. Iíd like to see Mr. Rhys in another, more engrossing production. To be fair, his stage presence was powerful, although his ranting monologues were draining. Ms. Goldberg seemed overwhelmed in the lack of space, but she did impress in her New York debut, portraying extreme shifts in leverage between Alison and Jimmy. Ms. Parry is a strong character actor, reviewed on this page for The Importance of Being Earnest, and her morphing from stylish to seductive showed confidence and skill. Sam Gold has directed to pinpoint tension, but the characters repelled instead of attracting the eye. Andrew Liebermanís set was dismal and unfortunately conceived. A room with more space would have given the action room to explode. Here, there was not even a spark.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at