Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Review Posted: Days to Come

The Artistic Home is doing a production of a rarely done Lillian Hellman play--it ran a week on Broadway and nobody could find records of it ever being produced in Chicago. Days to Come is Hellman's take on the labor play, and it doesn't quite mesh with her usual family drama, but there's some really entertaining and involving stuff along the way. The review is here. Benno, you're not allowed to read this til you finish your review. Here's the text:

Lillian Hellman's plays were often informed by her leftist politics - it's hard to miss the dim view of capitalism in "The Little Foxes" - but she rarely wrote straightforward political plays. "Days to Come," her 1936 play about a labor strike in a small town in Ohio, is one exception to that rule. This story of a factory owner who hires strikebreakers and is horrified by the consequences and the effect it has on his tortured relationships ran only a week on Broadway and has rarely been seen since. Though The Artistic Home is producing a very entertaining revival, it's not hard to see why the play failed. Hellman's venture into Clifford Odets territory is seriously confused in its tone. It doesn't add up to the sum of its parts.

But what parts! Nobody wrote juicy dialogue like Hellman, and the plotting, while not as satisfying as her best work, still offers the unapologetically melodramatic plot twists that modern plays rarely offer. The cast, under the sure-footed direction of Kathie Scambiatterra tears into the play with gusto, though a few moments meant to be high drama do get giggles rather than gasps from a modern audience. But when the play shifts to earnest discussions of the problems of workers and anguished denunciations of violent exploitation by the owners and strikebreakers, it simply doesn't work as well, and the transition is jarring. This makes for a play that is unavoidably lopsided.

 Still, there is plenty of satisfaction to be had. The performances are almost universally strong, with Leavey Ballou, as the factory owner's chronically unsatisfied wife, and Justine Serino, as his stuck-up sister, particularly vibrant. The play won't ever join the ranks of Hellman's classic works, but for those with an affection for exciting 1930s theatre performed with conviction, it's well worth a visit.

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