Waiting For Lefty, Retro Theatre Company, at the Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. Under Steve Reily’s tight direction, Retro Theatre’s staging of Clifford Odets’s searing social drama is a genuine tribute to a text that helped make the Group Theatre a voice for the working class during the Depression. By the standards of today’s theater, Waiting for Lefty is a clear-cut allegory in which big business is the root of all evil. Yet Odets’s script is so explosive, passionate, and poetic that even if the message seems a bit heavy-handed, this one-act still has the power to move us. Reily is wise to remain true to the play’s time and texture rather than try to update it: the issues of discrimination and low wages addressed at the strike meeting here still resonate today.

The fine cast play their characters with the necessary impassioned earnestness and even make the dialogue roll naturally from their tongues. Odets uses flashbacks to show the struggles of the men speaking at the meeting, and Reily’s straightforward staging makes the cuts from the meeting to the earlier scenes flow cleanly. Especially intense scenes include the desperate audition of an actor for a heartless producer and a confrontation between two doctors in which the elder informs the younger that he’s being let go because of anti-Semitic forces higher up.

–Gabrielle S. Kaplan