The legendary 1935 production of this Clifford Odets play has been credited with establishing the Group Theatre's reputation, electrifying the Broadway of its time, and changing the very nature of American acting for generations. It has become a high-water mark against which any subsequent production is measured. This rendition, directed by Larry Eisenberg, is a solid and respectable effort, if not an overly exciting one. The play's most remarkable achievement is the creation of Bessie Berger (Michele Bernath), the quintessential Jewish mother — tough, manipulative, willing to stoop to anything to preserve her family. She marries her pregnant daughter (Christine Joelle) off to an unsuspecting schlemiel (Marcos Cohen), dominates her ineffectual husband (Patrick Burke), sabotages the love life of son Ralph (Troy Whitaker) and connives to rob him of the $3,000 left to him by his militant grandfather Jacob (Stan Mazin), all in the context of Depression-era life in New York City. She's opposed only by Jacob and her bitter war-veteran boarder Moe Axelrod (Daniel Kaemon, in a striking performance). Bernath admirably captures Bessie's lethal determination, though doesn't win much sympathy for her. But all the actors acquit themselves honorably. The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Ave., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 3. (818) 763-5990, thegrouprep.com.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 20. Continues through Nov. 3, 2013
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