Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Angry Osborne play still hits hard today

Cleveland Press December 22, 1973

John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" opened at the Play House Drury Theater last night and although the program is filled with references to remind you that this is a 1956 play there is nothing terribly dated about it.

The play has immediacy. It is about a man angered with a society he feels is lacking in any feeling. It is not about the 1950's but about any time and the audience reaction indicates that. most of Osborne's lines can still hit uncomfortably close to the truth.

The play is a mixture of savage fury and biting humor. It is about a man who is rebellious to the point of being nasty, whose agony causes him to lash out at everyone about him.

The setting is a shabby apartment in an English industrial town. It is shared by Jimmy Porter (Victor Caroli), his wife Alison (Barrie Youngfellow) and a young man who is their mutual friend.Cliff Lewis (John Buck Jr.).

Jimmy is a member of the educated working class, aware that there is something better. He hates the haves in society so much that he can't pull himself out of the class of have-nots.

Instead he crushes his wife, born of that other class, with his invective. He taunts her while he relishes his own suffering.

Most of this washes over easy going Cliff whose presence brings about an occasional moment of uneasy peace.

A friend of Allison's, Helena (Brenda Curtis), arrives for a visit, urges the wife to leave. In a scene that lacks the honesty of the rest of Osborne's play, Helena, while hating Jimmy, becomes his mistress. By the third act the household is the same again except that the woman is different. There is a reconciliation at the end and with it a return to Osborne's powerful writing.

Caroli as Jimmy managed the speed and fury of the character's huge speeches while realizing the underlying note of agony. Miss Youngfellow is magnificent as Alison, a constant stage presence even when silent. Without overdoing it she captures the suffering and weariness of the woman. John Buck Jr. skillfully suggests the easy-going yet understanding personality of Cliff.

Director Douglas Seale provides enough movement to keep the over-long play from becoming static without letting the stage business get in the way of Osborne's lines.

"Look Back in Anger" is a powerful play about a rather unlikable person and its driving force comes through in this production.