This Clifford Odets play at the Lyric Stage (through Feb. 5) is certainly awake, but it sings only occasionally. It concerns a Jewish family in the Bronx during the depression of the '30s. The actors and the director are clearly aware of the harshness of those times - the set is seedily detailed, and most of the acting has the urgency that near-poverty induces.
This was Odets's first full-length play (originally produced in 1935) - and some say his most powerful. But if this power is to infuse the whole, it must go beyond the individual actors. Otherwise, the show progresses only in fits and starts.
Look, for instance, at the restless son, Ralph. Several times he whips up emotional thunderstorms within seconds of opening his mouth. But they don't affect anyone else in the scene; rather than moving the play forward, they come and go like summer squalls, leaving the others basically untouched.
But there are a number of moments when the passion of Odets's writing comes through, even if the energy isn't sustained. And there are times in the last act when it is fully sustained. Despite some awkward Yiddish accents and some uneven presentations, the actors do understand their characters. This, along with the fact that Odets is little seen these days, makes the show worth seeing.