Last Saturday, I went to see a preview of The Big Knife. the play first produced in 1949 was written by Clifford Odets--an activist, actor, director, playwright and screenwriter. A playwright who believed in the social protests of the 1930s, he was an actor with the Group Theatre who presented many of his plays and resented his leaving for Hollywood. Playwrights and actors were looked down upon at that time when they deserted theatre for film. Odets wrote many famous plays including Waiting for Lefty--a plea for labor unions, Awake and Sing, Golden Boy, rocket to the Moon and The Country Girl. Many of his plays have been revived and most werre adapted into films. He also wrote the motion picture None but the Lonely Heart which starred Ethel Barrymore, Humoresque with John Garfield, Notorious and the Sweet Smell of Success. Some think that Odets felt guilt at leaving the theatre for film but his emotional work keeps the audience riveted to the stage and the screen.
I was engrossed by the new production produced by The Roundabout Theatre starring Bobby Cannavaleand a cast of marvelous actors. The play is in three acts which was common in the 1940s but rarely seen today. Words and phrases are used that are not heard today but the characters are people that you can identify with. Odets introduced language, realism and themes that had not been seen before to an audience that embraced his subjects--they are still relevant today.