Look Back in Anger
Strike one was Terrence Rattigan's "Man and Boy." Strike two was Athol Fugard's "The Road to Mecca." And here comes strike three.
The Roundabout Theatre Company's new production of John Osborne's once incendiary 1956 English drama "Look Back in Anger" marks the third painfully boring revival that it has produced in recent months.
With the sole exception of the excellent "Sons of the Prophet," this has been a particularly bad season for the Roundabout.
While "Look Back in Anger" has not aged well, its historical significance can't be overstated. In reaction to the comedies and escapist fare popular on the English stage at the time, Osborne and his contemporaries emphasized gritty realism, serious themes and working-class characters.
The play is set in the small attic apartment of Jimmy (Matthew Rhys), a violent and resentful man, and his sweet wife Alison (Sarah Goldberg), who comes from a wealthy family. After reading the paper with his pal Cliff (Adam Driver), Jimmy proceeds to verbally abuse Alison, who later confides to Cliff that she is pregnant.
After Alison's friend Helena (Charlotte Parry) convinces her to leave Jimmy. Helena - in an absurd twist - eagerly takes her place as Jimmy's lover.
Sam Gold's odd and plodding production unfolds on the bare edge of the stage next to a black wall. The little space that remains is covered in trash.
This leaves the cast nowhere to move. Whenever an actor is supposed to go offstage, he or she sits on a set of stairs at the far end, as if sentenced to a time-out for bad behavior.
Yet even if it were staged well, "Look Back in Anger" has simply lost its shock value. It comes off these days as just another domestic soap opera in a kitchen-sink setting, with whiny, annoying characters and virtually no plot.
If you go: "Look Back in Anger" plays at the Laura Pels Theatre through April 8. 111 W. 46th St., 212-719-1300, roundabouttheater.org.