That's also the problem, to greater consequence, with Bessie. When a woman who has been nothing but self-centered and manipulative eventually reveals that she really cares about her daughter and son, that can be powerful theater — but not unless an earlier moment or two has sparked the suspicion. Bessie's desperation could draw some sympathy from us, but it's hard to glimpse helpful intentions beneath her bluster.
In its time, Awake and Sing! was appreciated not for its skillfully drawn characters but rather for how it spoke to the era, expressing the nation's yearnings and contradictions. The play is considered Odets's masterpiece, but he wasn't yet a master, so he populated the stage with stereotypes. (His better-drawn one-act Waiting for Lefty, also set in the Depression, opens at Providence College February 6.) With the naturalistic set design by William P. Wieters and spot-on costume design by Marilyn Salvatore, this production is physically convincing but remains emotionally unengaging.
, Fred Sullivan, Providence College, Clifford Odets, More