This dynamic 1935 one-act launched the career of playwright Clifford Odets, became an important social document and solidified the reputation of the Group Theatre. Seeing it now, 75 years later, reminds us that there was once a blue-collar theater audience, and the issues plaguing the country in the Depression era corruption, deprivation, injustice and wars between the haves and have-nots haven't gone away. Some ideas, like the idealization of Stalin's Russia, have been shattered by history, but in other areas, the problems haven't changed, and the audience frequently responded with rueful laughter of recognition. Director Charlie Mount has assembled 16 wonderfully able actors, who provide the kind of gritty passion and vitality that must have marked the original legendary production. The play's action is set in the meeting hall of a taxi-driver's union, where union leaders are company apparatchiks, fighting to prevent a strike, while the rank-and-file are determined to field their own leader, activist Lefty. Along the way we're introduced to a rich cross-section of Depression-era society, until the meeting erupts in violence. Jeff Rack's bleak union-hall set and the seemingly authentic, uncredited costumes evoke the 1930s in a way that has little to do with nostalgia. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West (near Universal Studios), L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 10. (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 3. Continues through Oct. 10, 2010