It is a surprise and a pleasure to report that sometime in between the bouts in the local theatrical feud which has been raging on and off the public stage for the past few months the Harvard Dramatic Club has been able to put together an altogether excellent production of a play that Boston should have seen before 1947, Clifford Odets' "Waiting for Lefty." Perhaps competition is healthy; perhaps the unusual glow of publicity attending all dramatic events has spurred the members of the HDC on to greater things; but whatever the cause, they have managed to put on the Sanders stage what is easily their best production in recent years.
Despite its birth in the turbulent middle Thirties and its almost doctrinaire argument, the play has a great deal to say to an audience of today. There are scenes and situations which have been withered in significance by time and circumstance: the pathetic Pacifist argument which is brought in more than once, for example, is musty. But the cry for economic equalitarianism rings truer today, if possible, than in 1935, and the repeated warnings against Communist-hunting as an indoor sport have a chillingly up-to-date sound about them.
Perhaps the Odets drama has lost just a little of its fiery workers-of-the-world-unite spirit--at any rate the current Pasadena address of its anther hangs in the background to dispel any idealist fervor. But the Dramatic Club cast manages to wring from the script more of the tragic social significance than could be expected perhaps even of a professional group.
Ted Allegretti would deserve a medal for endurance alone if he did not have other qualifications. After what must have been a trying ten minutes in "The Ping-Pong Players"--a sad sort of Little Theater Saroyan potboiler that could better have been left home--Allegretti took two widely divergent roles in the Odets, turning in a particularly good performance as Joe.
James Walker was satisfyingly oily as the evil Fatt and the other incarnations Odets gives him, and Helen McCloskey was impressive as Joe's inspiring wife, Edna. The only other standout in a very competent cast was John Mann, who in the difficult role of Agate Keller was almost perfect, setting a fine pace at the beginning of his famous closing speech and faltering only in his failure to maintain a crescendo of voice until the final cry of "Strike!"
From a directorial standpoint, too, the production was outstanding Timing in most cases was little short of phenomenal for amateurs. The only flaws which could stand correcting are some muddled first-scene calls with a resulting lack of expectancy for Lefty, too-long intermissions which let the audience fever down, and a rather rushed reception to the news of Lefty's death at the close.