Clifford Odets' 1935 saga of restive lives trying to ride out the Great Depression is one of those classic American dramas that, though much revered, is rarely staged. So what a relief it was to finally see Awake and Sing! and learn that its reputation is deserved. Odets crams emotions into this lusty chronicle of three generations of a family living in the same congested Bronx apartment the way others cram weeds into a yard-waste bag. The eruptive staging at New Jewish Theatre, directed with a sense of urgency by Steven Woolf, blew off the dusty stigma that shrouds too many classics. For the most part, the cast reveled in the infrequent opportunity to enact roles that, if anything, were overwritten rather than under. It sometimes seems that we live in a world where the past is too soon forgotten. But during the New Jewish run of Awake and Sing! the American theater heritage was alive and well — and electrifying.
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