Tony's Reviews > Awake and Sing!
Awake and Sing!
Odets, Clifford. AWAKE AND SING. (1935). ****. This time, Odets takes on the effects of the Depression and what he sees as capitalistic oppression and examines it at the level of a family living in the Bronx. The action all takes place in their apartment. The family, the Bergers, face one problem after another – all the problems, however, tied to the fact that there is not enough money coming in to do more than meet the basic expenses of life – rent and food. As Odets says in his prelude to the stage directions: “All of the characters in ‘Awake And Sing!’ share a fundamental activity: a struggle for life amidst petty conditions. The family consists of Bessie Berger, the mother. As she herself states, she is not only the mother in this home, but also the father. “She is constantly arranging and taking care of her family. She loves lilfe, likes to laugh, has great resourcefulness and enjoys living from day to day. A high degree of energy accounts for her quick exasperation at ineptitude. She is a shrewd judge of realistic qualities in people in the sense of being able to gauge quickly their effectiveness. She knows that when one lives in the jungle one must look out for the wild life.” Myron Berger, Bessie’s husband, “is a born follower. He would like to be a leader. He would like to make a million dollars.He is not sad or ever depressed. He likes people. He likes everything. But he is heartbroken without being aware of it.” Then we have Hennie, the daughter. She...”is a girl who has had few friends, male or female. She is proud of her body. She won’t ask favors. She travels alone...She is self-reliant in the best sense...She inherits her mother’s sense of humor and energy.” Ralph, the son, “is a boy with a clean spirit. He wants to know, wants to learn. He is ardent, he is romantic, he is sensitive. He is naive, too. He is trying to find why so much dirt must be cleared away before it is possible to ‘get to first base.’” These and other players who come in and out of the scenes constitute the core group of lab rats that Odets uses to dramatize the effects of the Depression years on family life – its hopes and expectations. This is a powerful play by Odets that is much more subtle in his arguments for implementation of a more socialistic system of government and its likely benefits for Americans. Recommended.
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