The first thing we hear is some vintage jazz played just loud enough to annoy. Setting the proper mood for what we see on stage – a ramshackle mess of the extremely tight quarters that the Porters inhabit in this excellent, white hot revival of LOOK BACK IN ANGER by John Osborne first produced in 1956. It’s as pertinent today as it was then. How many women still find themselves ensnarled in an abusive relationship?
Garbage is strewn about. Empty cans of beans and clothing litter the floor. A filthy mattress is propped up against the bare black wall with just enough space left for the incredible team of actors to bring to life – the ugly, frustrated, cramped lives of the Porters – Jimmy (a seething Matthew Rhys) an arrogant, self absorbed, offensive and demanding “angry young man” of the lower class who wastes his intelligence – bitterly complaining about life in general and specifically his beautiful wife Alison of three years (a ravishing Sarah Goldberg) who takes his abuse all the while ironing and brewing tea while their boarder (a brutish and sexy Adam Driver) lolls around the floor reading the Sunday papers, checking for lice and openly flirting with her.
Director Sam Gold has done a masterful job in creating an “in your face” production that reeks of sweat and sex where the characters literally have their backs up against the wall. It’s a very physical production that has Jimmy and Cliff sparing and wrestling. Both ready to pounce. Both ready to explode. As is the pent-up Alison.
One wonders why she puts up with this lout who writes bad songs and goes off every once in a while to play his trumpet – brilliantly commenting and interrupting the action.
She is, after all, from a higher station in life but absolutely adores the charming and horrifying man she is married to. He must be fantastic in the sack.
Into their world walks her seemingly good friend Helena (a shrewd Charlotte Parry) – an actress after something more than just a place to stay. Walking around in her red high heels it’s as if she is wading through a mine field – which she is – stepping over garbage and clothing and Cliff. Adding additional pressure to the already about to burst situation.
This up close and incisive production is aided greatly by the stark lighting (Mark Barton) which is extremely effectual. David Zinn’s costumes add a splash of color to the stark set by Andrew Lieberman and are absolutely right on target. Fight director Thomas Schall makes terrific use of the claustrophobic space.
Sam Gold has made some brave choices here and has given us a cast that is outstanding which makes a trip to the Porter household a truly unique and powerful experience.
www.roundabouttheatre.org Photos: Joan Marcus
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