Pablo Schreiber, Stephen Kunken, Maria Dizzia, Reed Birney and More Conjure Waiting for Lefty in NYC Reading
By Kenneth Jones
Clifford Odets' groundbreaking 1935 agitprop play, Waiting for Lefty, about union members on the brink of a strike during hard times, received a private reading presentation Sept. 24 as part of Roundabout Theatre Company's Friends of Roundabout Playreading Series.
The reading of the one-act play was not open to the public. These unique events are only open to the generous donors to Roundabout, the Manhattan not-for-profit that operates theatres on Broadway and Off-Broadway. Tony Award winner Doug Hughes (Doubt), who will direct Odets' The Big Knife for RTC on Broadway in the spring, directed Waiting for Lefty. (Coincidentally, Lincoln Center Theater is producing a fall Broadway revival of Odets' Golden Boy.)
The presentation at Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre, where RTC is now offering the New York City premiere of Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, featured Peter Jacobson, Pablo Schreiber, Maria Dizzia, Randall Newsome, Ben Rappaport, Rachel Brosnahan, Daniel Eric Gold, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Andrew Hovelson, Ray Virta, Liv Rooth, Morgan Spector, Stephen Kunken, Reed Birney, Darren Goldstein, Steven P. Nemphos, plus (playing "Strike Workers") Ross Cowan, Jordan Geiger, Jeremie Harris, Stephanie Lauren, Stephen O'Reilly, Alex Rice, Jason Silverman, Ryann Weir, Adam Weppler and Matt Wood.
James Fitzsimmons was stage manager. Alexander Greenfield was assistant director.
The play, first produced by socially-conscious Group Theatre in early 1935, was inspired by a real-life taxi strike. The play's frame is a union meeting (with actors positioned throughout the auditorium). The union leader, Lefty, is mysteriously missing. The play is made up of a number of "episodes" or scenes relating to economic hardship and the power of bosses. The Monday night presentation included a restored scene called "The Young Actor," which was cut back in the day because of its controversial reference to communism.
The play famously ends with news the Lefty has been shot, and the crowd shouts, "Strike! Strike! Strike!"
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