LOOK BACK IN ANGERby John Osborne
The Classics Theatre Project
Director – Jackie L. Kemp
Production Manager – Luisa Torres
Designs by the company
Jimmy – Joey Folsom
Cliff – Braden Socia
Alison – Devon Rose
Helena – Rhonda Rose
Colonel Redfern – Frances Henry
Reviewed Performance: 3/19/2022
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I leapt at the chance to see Look Back in Anger, and may I be permitted to suggest, you should too. Its themes of working-class resentment, misogyny, toxic relationships, and betrayal not only illuminate mid nineteenth-century psychology but also echo into our present times.
Jimmy (Joey Folsom) is an educated man of working-class roots who married a woman from a “posher” class. He is a knight in shining armor without the shine. Notwithstanding his education and apparent quick-witted intelligence, he has floundered at different careers. The play opens with Jimmy, Cliff (Braden Socia), and Alison (Devon Rose) in a shabby scene of domesticity. The relationship between the three is originally unclear. Alison wears an overlarge men’s shirt as a form of housedress over female underclothes. She lethargically irons a man’s shirt, while Jimmy and Cliff discuss the newspapers (only two posh papers on a Sunday).
As the drama unfolds, an unflattering picture of Jimmy emerges. He spits insults at his wife and also attempts to blame her, and the class from which she comes, for his behavior. Jimmy illustrates no shortage of self-pity, self-proving his own misogyny as he condemns “bewitching” women. As one character observes, people do marry for revenge.
The interpersonal drama exposes different relationship dynamics. Jimmy rages that nothing he does provokes his wife, and the pattern that has evolved between the two brings out Jimmy’s worst. Jimmy’s in-laws were vehemently opposed to the marriage, and while this is cause for Jimmy’s ire, one cannot exactly blame them. By the time we meet the miserable couple, Jimmy is a frequently unvarnished bully and “heavy villain.” Jimmy and Colonel Redfern (sympathetically played by Frances Henry), both articulate their feelings of displacement in a society that moved heroism and purpose outside of their reach. The two men felt this displacement at different life stages, which perhaps explains why their responses are different. The Colonel had his career largely behind him whereas Jimmy’s potential has never been tapped. Jimmy complains that “nothing is left for our generation.” It was all done in the ’30s and ’40s, he says.
Both female characters agree that Jimmy was born in the wrong time. Still, whether Jimmy’s seething class resentments and childhood trauma excuse his behavior, and if so to what degree, are fodder for intelligent post-play conversation. In this intense and demanding role, Folsom does a great job of embodying Jimmy’s petulant ennui, simmering frustration, and twitching hostility.
D. Rose convincingly follows her character’s arc from lethargic ironing to happy squirrel dancing. Helena’s (Rhonda Rose)’s various motivations appear open for interpretation. R. Rose successfully portrays the character as genuine in each moment. Socia is perfect as a hapless third wheel who is perennially conflicted as his friends’ relationship descends into ever more abuse and dysfunction.
One lively element of Look Back in Anger is the silliness as adults roll or jump around like small children. Folsom, Socia, and D. Rose do a great job at the rambunctious blocking.
The set is a visual feast, well-lit to match the mood of claustrophobic poverty. The worn furniture is assiduously mismatched. An interesting array of props complete the picture of working-class domesticity: a hot plate, a makeshift woman’s vanity, a newspaper holder coupling as an umbrella stand, and haphazard stacks of papers. The audience is treated to the characters’ clothes hanging on a rack. The women’s disheveled state of informal household attire is contrasted by the 1950’s dresses that they adorn for church and other activities outside of the run-down flat.
There is no bad seat in the house, and the intimate theater is perfect for this domestic drama. Look Back in Anger was popular in the 1950s and its themes certainly echo into the present time. If there is a British equivalent to Streetcar, this is it, and I recommend that you not miss it. Kudos to the Classics Theatre Project for this production of a play that deserves consideration and debate as much now as ever.
The Classics Theatre Project
Dates: March 25, 26, April 1, 2, 8, 9 at 8:00 p.m.
Margo Jones Theatre at Magnolia Lounge, 1121 1st Avenue, Dallas, TX 75210
For info and tickets call 214 923-3619 or go to: