Look Back in Anger
nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
October 14, 2010
Playwright John Osborne gives us a glimpse of the middle class in 1956 England in his drama Look Back In Anger. The Seeing Place Theater marks the end of their first season with a production of this twisted tale of love, lust, and betrayal. The company tackles this beast of a play with great enthusiasm and delivers an adequate production of a verbose work.
The curtain rises and the mood is set from the start. We sit in silence for as we watch Alison (Anna Marie Sell) iron while her husband Jimmy Porter (Brandon Walker) and his friend Cliff Lewis (Adam Reich) read the Sunday paper. We know immediately that this is the monotonous routine that happens every week. What's startling is when Cliff kisses Alison on the lips in front of her husband. We suddenly realize that we are in the midst of a complicated love triangle. Then, Helena Charles (Adrian Wyatt) enters the picture and all hell breaks loose. She has an immense hatred for Jimmy and does not hide it. But in a heated argument, they kiss passionately and she reveals that she, in fact, loves him. The love triangles continue to grow and torture all parties until the climax at the end.
The play, which lasted a little over three hours, is heavy. Jimmy rambles, making him the overbearing, abusive jerk that he needs to be. Walker makes a valiant attempt of bringing his character to life, but I wanted to see more of what was underneath this mean exterior. I got glimpses of that, but not enough to carry any real weight. Both Helena and Alison have this animalistic irresistible lust for Jimmy, who they outwardly disdain. I was left unsure about why these two women had this intense desire for this man.
Yet, there seemed to be an unmistakable attraction between Cliff and Jimmy. I was unsure whether these two were merely best friends or if there were deeper feelings. I don't know whether this was intended or not, but the two men danced and held each other in very intimate positions, which made for an interesting subplot. Also, Jimmy tells Cliff that Cliff is worth six more of these women and Jimmy breaks down when Cliff leaves him, which further enhances my suspicion that these two men have more intense desires for each other.
Wyatt, the newest member of the cast, turns in a stellar performance as Helena. An announcement was made that she just joined the cast less than a week ago and therefore would be using her script on stage. I did not mind at all as she was alive and a breath of fresh air in this cumbersome play. Her journey and inner life was the most real and therefore made her a pleasure to watch.
Director Reesa Graham understands the play well. She does all that she can with the tough piece that was presented to her. I feel that this story could be very powerful, but it gets deflated by the excessive language that Osborne puts into the play. I left encouraged by The Seeing Place Theater, but not overly impressed with this production.