Review “Awake and Sing!”: Teach and Entertain!
Northlight Theatre presents
9501 Skokie Boulevard
Written by Clifford Odets
Directed by Amy Morton
Thru February 28th
Running Time: Two hours including a fifteen minute intermission
If… I just had a better job, more money, true love … I’d be happy! Northlight Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning play Awake and Sing! Penned by Clifford Odets, Awake and Sing! is the story of the Berger family chasing the American dream while struggling with harsh realities of the Great Depression. If Bessie could just marry off her daughter to a rich guy… If Myron could be that one in a million gambler… If Ralph could just get his mom to accept his girlfriend… If Hennie could find an escape from her family… These American dream chasers pretend, coerce, and lie in an effort to have it all. Meanwhile, as they continue to sleep and dream, grandpa is content with his ideology, Caruso records and books. A lifetime of unfulfilled promises has taught grandpa to be awake and sing. Northlight Theatre’s production Awake and Sing! is a history lesson with contemporary relevance. It has moments that teach and entertain!
Up and yell! Cindy Gold (Bessie) is the overbearing puppeteer determined that her family will thrive against the odds. It’s pure hilarious Gold with delivered lines like, “I don’t have the strength” and “I can’t sleep at night” after an intense bullying session followed by instantaneous slumber. Exist and delight! Mike Nussbaum (Jake) is charming as the kind and open-minded confidante to his grandchildren. Endure and survive! Through life’s complications, Audrey Francis (Hennie) transforms her character from bold to bitter in a heart wrenching hide-under-the-blanket way. Live and learn! As a wise cracking, disabled veteran, Jay Whittaker (Axelrod) surprises with moments of true clarity. Under the direction of Amy Morton, the Awake and Sing! cast ignite and excel.
From Skokie to Oak Park, today’s recession is reviving the past depression on stage. Much like Northlight Theatre , the Village Players have also joined the 1930’s Jewish family dramedy resurgence with their current production of Lost in Yonkers. It’s a life lesson for new generations with the recapturing and retelling of the financial hardship stories that forced families to make tough lifestyle decisions. The parallels are fascinating. Jewish family lives in overcrowded apartment. Strong matriarch bullies her children. Uncle scams for the easy fix. Both Clifford Odets and Neil Simon create stories of historical truths with the same timeless message. This is it. Life is happening now! If you are waiting for dreams to come true, you will snooze and lose!
A world traveler with Skokie ties, James describes the show as “Alive and well-done.”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
In the spirit of the current recession depression, we travel from Lakeview to Skokie via the Chicago Transit Authority. Commute and relax! It’s about seventy minutes each way. Outbound on a Sunday afternoon, it’s the red line to the Howard Station to catch the #97 bus. The #97 bus has a stop across from the theatre. With time to dine, we walk a block to Portillo’s Hot Dogs, 9400 Skokie Boulevard. Even at the early hour, the drive-through and restaurant are jamming. I order a chili cheese dog and small fries for $5 bucks and some change at the counter. By the time I have my coat off, they are calling my number. Pay and eat!
The show finishes at 8pm. We catch the #97 bus at 8:23pm transfer to the #151 bus at the Howard station with home curbside delivery at 9:40pm. If… I had a car… I’d be happy. Gas and parking! Seventy minutes and $2.25! Relent and simplify!
Northlight photographs by Timmy Samuel.