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Look Back in Anger  

Ryan Walsh and Carolina Aimetti


Look Back in Anger


                                     by R. Pikser


When John Osborne wrote Look Back in Anger in 1956, its shockingly bitter class antagonisms may have seemed a bit strange and distant to Americans of that time.  Reviews of subsequent productions and films stress how dated its concerns had become, how we were past all that, at least in the minds of the reviewers.  Now, its parallels to our current political lives, both in England and in the United States, are all too apparent.  If we, as Americans, do not resonate fully with the idea of class per se strangling the lives it touches, we have merely to look around to see similar lives, apparently without future, of many working-class white men and the fury their situation engenders in them.  If we do not call it class in this country, we can still feel the exclusion when we turn on the television and see item after wonderful item that we cannot afford to purchase, or only by heavy borrowing, including the education that promises us a way out.


Look Back in Anger details the trapped lives of the three central characters.  Jimmy is a brilliant man but from a lower class, poor background, which fact will forever limit how far he can go in life, and this infuriates him to such an extent that it poisons everything he touches.  He is stuck in a meaningless job that barely supports himself and his upper class wife, Alison, who has all but renounced her family (an unthinkable act in those days) to be with Jimmy.  The third central character is their friend, Cliff, also working class, but whose sensitivity or lack of bitterness allows him to act as a buffer between the other two.  Alison, for Jimmy, clearly represents all that has oppressed him and his for his whole life.


 What is less obvious, especially after the changes wrought by the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, is not so much what has caused this upper class young woman to leave her former life, but what makes her continue in her clearly abusive new life.  One may understand that male directors may not focus on this problem, but even Aimee Fortier, who directed this production, has allowed Elizabeth Scopel, her Alison, to remain merely sweetly browbeaten, rather than helping her discover a reason to stand for this abuse, admittedly no easy task.


The question must be answered also by the actions of Jimmy:  for example, does he really never show any affection that would help Alison to stick it out?  This reviewer thinks that the answer lies not only in what must be Jimmy's burning sexuality, which is made clear by the play, but in proposing to the audience a situation that allows them to reflect on the idea of the vitality of the lower classes and how dangerous it may be.  If Ryan Welsh´s Jimmy does not burn with energy all the time, his outbreaks into physical movement tell us that the energy is inside him just the same.


Carolina Aimetti and Ryan Welsh    photos by Fiamma Piacentini


Tim Creavin solves most of the problems Cliff presents by the way he listens and when he chooses not to listen to what is going on around him.  The role is deceptively simple but Mr. Creavin fills it out.  Caroline Aimetti as Alison’s friend and Stan Buturla as Alison’s father who comes to rescue her were both entirely professional, thinking through their roles and bringing them to life.


Tim Creavin, Carolina Aimetti, Elizabeth Scopel, Stan Burtula


All the actors must be given great thanks and credit for their performance to a very small house on the evening of February 20th.  To perform for a small audience is difficult, but to perform a play requiring so much energy is especially challenging and all the actors must be commended for their discipline and their dedication. 


There are points to disagree with or quarrel about in this play, but it is provocative and, as good theater does, it makes us think not only historically but about our present moment.  One hopes that others will be inspired to take another look at it and that there will be more productions.  That in itself would be a service.


Celtic Lion Productions and

Ryan Welsh and Joy Donze

February 15th-29th, 2020

Gene Frankel Theater

24 Bond Street

New York, NY

Wednesday-Saturday 8:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday  2:00 p.m.

Tickets $35

212 777 1767