One Year Lease
LOOK BACK IN ANGER
By JOHN OSBORNE
Reviewed during the February 2003 run at NYCís Abingdon Arts Complex
Director IANTHE DEMOS
Lighting MIKE RIGGS
Sets CRISTINA CAPELLO
Costumes, Hair & Make-Up KATIE WARONKER
Public Relations SARAH PARVIS
Ariane Barbanell as Alison Porter
Damien Carney as Jimmy Porter
Tella Storey as Helena Charles
Paul Thureen as Cliff Lewis
John Osborneís LOOK BACK IN ANGER (1956), widely considered to be the post-war turning point in British theatre, if you have never experienced it, portrays just about the most oddly hostile, dank, unpleasant, yet self-sustaining domestic situation imaginable. Truly a world in which love and hate coexist, in which the animals the characters imagine themselves to be would be far preferable to their language-capable human counterparts, and in which no measure of rancorous dialogue will be unexpected by the end of Act 1, this most telling dramatic creation is, ultimately, a tale of the resiliency of spirit.
Not an easy undertaking, the cast of young actors have assembled for this production and successfully delivered the appropriate performances. At the forefront, we have Jimmy Porter. Considered to be the template for the host of "angry young man" characters that followed his 1956 debut, Jimmy is a man of conflict, turmoil, and vastly unfulfilled passions. The type who derides for fun, but who is himself too unhappy to truly gain satisfaction through his folly, Jimmy is at once a mouthpiece of misogyny, a snob without social standing, and a man who would destroy himself and all of those around him from the outside in. Not lost in 2003 is the fact that LOOK BACK IN ANGER was a pivotal piece of British drama in the 1950' s. A new voice back then, and one that spoke to social and class struggles, as well as youthful disenchantment with a system that may lead one to dismiss the unattainable for lack of the inability to fit in, Osborne's depressing, yet eerily realistic view of what it means to be economically and socially disenfranchised resonates nearly fifty years later.
We meet the brash Jimmy, his seemingly emotionally vapid and ever-ironing wife Alison, and their punching-bag housemate, Cliff. The trio go on bantering and bartering for their sanity, and would ad infinitum were in not for the introduction of a pretty poison by the name of Helena. Initially a character that would be Alisonís saving grace, it is soon clear that she will be the shock to the system that throws the odd threesome apart. The ironic denouement is just the sort of ending we have come to expect from a play ripe with social commentary, but it still bites.
The claustrophobia of the characters is heightened by the performance venue. A tight space, with audience horse-shoed about, and really nowhere to go save offstage or square in the middle, One Year Lease has presented us with an unintentionally environmental production. A play renowned for inspiring a new and rebellious generation, yet also controversial for many reasons, LOOK BACK IN ANGER loses none of its shocking venom with the passage of time. As staged here, One Year Lease puts the often-excruciating action front, center, unavoidable and utterly unedited.
- Kessa De Santis -