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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Classic Stage Company


  Ken Barnett and David Garrison/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Between Mark Blitzstein’s penchant for agitprop and director John Doyle’s signature austerity, one might expect this revival of the 1937 succes de scandale to be a bit of a grim, dry lecture. It starts off unpromisingly enough, with a backdrop of stacked oil drums and a phalanx of performers dressed in denim-drab. But the sly humor kicks in once an artist (played by Rema Webb) and a musician (Ian Lowe) begin tugging at the (imaginarily) bejeweled lapels of a rich potential patron (Sally Ann Triplett, overly cutesy as the noblesse-oblige Mrs. Mister). It’s a familiar dance, practiced to this day, and strikes a more contemporary chord than the pro-union proselytizing that informs the bulk of the play.
Not that the fight for workers’ rights (especially women’s) has been fought and won, by any stretch, but the song cycle’s preachiness can feel a bit overblown and passé. Another demerit: Vocal ability among the cast members – four of whom pitch in on the piano, the sole accompaniment – varies disconcertingly. Webb brings home the touching plaint of “Joe Worker,” Tony Yazbek delivers the pathos haunting the Druggist, and David Garrison conveys a stone-cold rapacity as the arch-kakistocrat Mr. Mister.


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