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Waiting for Lefty and Other Plays Paperback – January 14, 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ernest Lehman lives in Los Angeles, California. One of the most critically and commercially successful screenwriters ever to work in Hollywood, his movie scripts include "Sabrina," "The King and I," "Somebody Up There Likes Me," "West Side Story," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf," and "Portnoy's Complaint,"
Known primarily as one of the great American playwrights--his classic dramas in "Waiting for Lefty" and "Rocket to the Moon--"Clifford Odets also wrote or co-wrote 18 movies for film and television.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (January 14, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802132200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802132208
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are many aspects of Odets' work that have not particularly aged well. Frankly because he consciously was writing to reflect contemporary (for the 1930's) American Society with an extreme and blatant Leftist leaning, much of his dialouge, characterization and politicising has dated. Yet these selections still contain powerful dramatic representations of life that illuminate a segment of society that literally was ignored by the media of the time.
It is arguable, but I think it's true that without Odets' dramatization of the plight of the common man, we wouldn't have witnessed the (admittidly more poetic and timeless) works of Miller, Inge and Williams. Odets, perhaps more than any other playwright of his time, placed "the little guy" in the center of the tragic form. As one reads these plays, one becomes aware that the rules are beginning to break right before the reader's eyes.
Odets' plays are, if one is able to check their political hat at the door, fine works of dramtic lit that prove most actable while also allowing a range of staging possibilities. His narratives are clean and direct in the sense that they give the characters a series of clear objectives and actions as well as conflicts to confront. This collection is a most welcome and necessary addition to any theatre library.
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By Scorpio on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
After joining the American Communist Party in 1934, Odets used a taxi drivers' strike from that year as the inspiration for his first play, Waiting for Lefty . The play is an agit-prop that borrows heavily from Communist ideology and promotes collective action and unionization as the only means to tip the scales of power away from big business and toward the worker. The characters in the play grow aware of themselves as the oppressed class as opposed to the powerful ruling class, and when this "class consciousness" becomes too burdensome, they see no other option but to strike.
This dialectic play gives the audience an insight into the ills of American society and encourages them to change their reality. It was written and performed at a time when the legend of the self-made man held no more waters. The country was still struggling with the aftershocks of the stock market crash of 1929. Unemployment rate reached its highest peak in the United States and employers were reducing wages drastically. As depicted in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Tillie Olsen's Yonnondio: From the Thirties (written in the 1930s, published in 1974), workers were treated brutally by their employers. As Steinbeck showed, workers had to bond together and fight for their meagre wages which dropped even more because of the intense competition. In this fight, unionization and strikes were their only weapons.
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Format: Paperback
"...So in the end nothing is real. Nothing is left but our memory of life. Not as it is...as it might have been...."

So says Leo, soft natured, burnt out, over worked, unappreciated, hang dog Odetian father in Paradise Lost. But such sentiment could come from any of these six plays and not be out of place.

In these six plays, featuring some of the most brilliant and emotional American playwriting ever, Clifford Odets hammered and chiseled circumstances of urban American life in the 1930's. Full of hard edged people who demand it of others, and naive people who refuse to be brought down by the prevailing winds, Odets creates a world that may seem dated and bygone. But the turmoil and the choices are neither.

In Waiting for Lefty taxi cab drivers must contend with horrendous working conditions, including violence and intimidation from managment if they strike. Scenes from worker meetings, home life between a husband and wife on the edge, and between two scientists politicing towards blacklisting and espionage.

In Awake and Sing and Paradise Lost families living in small cramped apartments must strive for peace and simple comforts while income is barely enough, their children, desperate for a better life, risk their lives through crime, or take up with sordid, cynical and compromised people. Homes are taken away, suicides and paralysis grip them.

In Till the Day I Die, two brothers go from being tight excited comrades, rebelling against the Fascist Nazi encrouchment, to being torn apart and suspicious after one of them is captured, tortured, abused, compromised and released.
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Format: Paperback
There has always been a place for didactic political plays, like the one under review here, "Waiting For Lefty", within the left wing movement. Such plays have value both as a means to express certain plebeian cultural values that are not expressed through mainstream bourgeois cultural institutions and for purely propaganda purposes to get the "message" out to the sometimes illiterate, just barely literate, or merely recalcitrant masses. These are both honorable and acceptable means in order to create an "alternative" cultural expression looking forward to the new culture of the new communist society.

Moreover, there has been no lack of those cultural workers, including playwrights and actors, who, while not plebes themselves, have readily come over to our side, at least for a while. This movement toward the plebes is episodic but takes a big leap forward especially in times of general social turmoil like the period of the Great Depression in the 1930's and in the social movements of the 1960s. That is the case with the playwright under review, Clifford Odets, and the cultural organization that initially sponsored his works, The Theater Guild of New York, in the 1930s.

Put a collectivist spirit in the air as a result of serious class struggles for union recognition in some a massive strike wave in 1934, a turn by the Communist International toward the popular front and alliance with previously ignored or despised bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, some hunger actors and related cultural workers, AND the bright lights of New York and you have the Theater Guild. Its illustrious personal included many young performers who would go on to, if not honorable theater careers, then long ones like Lee J. Cobb and Elia Kazan who made appearances in Clifford Odets works.
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