The Roundabout Theatre Company's production of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" is a new staging of a landmark British drama from the 1950s. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.
“Look Back in Anger,” John Osborne's seminal 1956 play, provides a startling snapshot of a very specific time and place. As a record of our cultural history, it's invaluable and it's getting a fine in-your-face production. But given its unrelenting misogyny and off-putting chauvinism, I'd say the play's day has come and gone.
We first meet Jimmy, the iconic angry young man, with his head buried in a newspaper, ranting about this and that. Living in squalor with his sad wife Alison and Cliff, his friend/punching bag, Jimmy is miserably crude and abusive.
Post WWII class-conscious Britain offered few opportunities for young people like Jimmy. And with virtually no outlet for his creative energies, this restless intellectual has turned mean. Alison, tethered to an ironing board, is the target of his jarringly irksome outbursts and the oafish Cliff is often caught awkwardly in the middle. The two men expertly played by Matthew Rhys and Adam Driver are pathetically childish at times. And Sam Gold's physically demanding production, has them constantly going at it.
Gold also pushed the action far downstage so that the playing space is a mere strip spanning the lip of the stage. The design feels appropriately claustrophobic, putting the cramped quarters practically in the audience's lap.
Adding to the dysfunction is Alison's friend Helena, who's involved in a disturbing turn of events that prompted an audience member at the performance I attended to shout "how repulsive!"
Osborne's depiction of women in this play is fairly repulsive, though the actresses Sarah Goldberg and Charlotte Parry manage their difficult roles impressively. I can also say Osborne's writing is sharp and brutally honest. But despite a strong production, this talented company hasn't made the case that we need to look back at these people any longer.