Clifford Odets wrote his classic Waiting for Lefty in 1935 after attending a strike meeting of NYC union cabdrivers. At the height of the Great Depression, it was a sterling example of agitprop theatre. Odets’ eight scenes showed the unjust victimization of the various strikers. In 2021, playwright Gregory Crafts in (It’s been 76 years and we’re still) Waiting for Lefty paints on a much larger canvas. He uses his play’s opening minutes to discuss what modern audiences need to know about the original play. During scene changes, Wade F. Wilson’s poetry about the current world seeming to have Lost Its Connection with reality and humanity add to the current vibe. The play would be a perfect addition to a time capsule to give a snapshot of what the political reality of 2021 is.
In the first scene, Jose (Joe Luis Cedillo), a weary, frustrated and embittered driver for Amazon comes home to Edna (Leesette Gloria Medina), his unemployed wife and new baby. He has just attended a meeting where he and other drivers talked about organizing a union. He claims the company is only interested in getting as many packages delivered as quickly as possible. He gets his pay docked for taking time to use the rest room so he uses an empty Gatorade bottle. He gets docked for using the a/c in the van, saying the company has cameras watching him all the time. His wife doesn’t completely understand, she’s just afraid he will lose his job and their only source of income.
Ashley (Courtney Sara Bell) is engaged to Lana (Leah Verrill) and, although a liberal vaccinated lesbian, she is consumed by irrational Covid conspiracy theories. She refuses to leave their apartment, even to attend the memorial service for her 92-year-old grandmother who recently died of Covid. She refuses to see or even talk to her brother Will (Michael J. Lutheran), who flew in from Dallas for the ceremony, because he voted for Trump twice. Estranged brother and sister finally do confront each other and air their political differences in one of the play’s strongest scenes.
Conservative Southern Senator August (Patrick Randolph) is interviewing Baker (Ethan Williams) an ambitious, young African-American aide to a Congresswoman. The Senator is hoping to entice Baker to be the Black Face for the Georgia Voter Suppression Law. As Baker points out all the things that would limit voting and be challenged in court, the Senator encourages him to read further. As the limitations become more heinous, the Senator continues to smile, knowing they will lose some items but the main part of the bill will survive. Baker gets a backbone and refuses to be a part of the plan, even if it means the end to his budding political career.
The final scene contains an Asian mother Nora (Soda Persi) and daughter Allison (Rena Carter). Nora is angry that Allison posted on Instagram that she had been sexually assaulted by her boss. Allison explains the situations she found herself in and defends her response. The women finally bond as Nora relates that she quit three of her jobs because of sexual harassment, although she still claims she left for better employment.
Crafts has written some pointed plot points and his talented cast, under the assured direction of Richard Platt, deliver them without really chewing the scenery or pounding their chests overly hard.