AWAKE AND SING! by Clifford Odets, directed by Dean Gabourie, with Don Allison, Danielle Bourgon, Heidi Weeks Brown, Adrian Griffin, Jim Jones, Keith Knight, Michael Proudfoot, Bruce Vavrina and Aaron Willis. Presented by The Co. at Equity Showcase (651 Dufferin). Runs to April 6, Tuesday-Sunday 8 pm. $15-$25, Tuesday half-price, stu/srs discount. 416-533-6100. Rating: NNN
The Bergers are a family of dreamers, and their dreams are the source of comedy, tragedy and hope in Clifford Odets's 30s play Awake And Sing! Director Dean Gabourie, treating the material and the characters with respect but not reverence, captures many but not all of the work's strengths.
Sitting in Camellia Koo and Laird MacDonald's tenement-like setting -- clotheslines of laundry fly above us -- we're moved quickly into a family tense with financial and emotional problems. It's the Depression, controlling mother Bessie (Danielle Bourgon) must find a husband for her daughter, Henny (Heidi Weeks Brown), ineffectual father Myron (Bruce Vavrina) lives in the past and son Ralph (Aaron Willis) is a lovestruck romantic.
The strength of the script today arises more out of the characterizations than the narrative, and The Co.'s production offers some fine acting, including that of Jim Jones as capitalist Uncle Morty.
The best scenes -- passionate, sexually tinged arguments that ring with period dialogue -- are between the angry Henny and the ironic Moe (Adrian Griffin), a war amputee. But we need more from Bourgon and Don Allison as Jacob, the socialist grandfather, who offer limited portraits that lack depth and compassion.
Given a role with a wide emotional arc, Willis provides the script's through-line and does some of his best work. There's no denying Ralph's undiluted optimism at the end, which Gabourie intentionally undercuts with a brief postscript.