Great performance! Don?t overlook it.
R. Scharba | Chicago, IL USA | 01/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't commend this highly enough. I saw it on the local Public Television station here in Chicago when it was first broadcast in the early 1970s, and it made a tremendous impact on me. This play, and the very similar "Paradise Lost," are depression era dramas written by Clifford Odets and originally produced for the stage in the mid 1930s, when they were the cutting edge of contemporary theatre and dealt with contemporary issues. These new DVDs contain television productions done with top-notch casts in the early 1970s. I found them unforgettable, and am delighted to be able to savor them again after 30-plus years. They're just as good as I remember.They tell their stories from a rather specific perspective, i.e., that of educated middle-class Jewish families living in New York, and falling on hard times during the depression. These people have pretensions of gentility and high culture, but quickly-encroaching poverty is grinding at that façade and leaving them without much more than primal survival instincts. The main themes they deal with, as I read it, are familial love (and how it sometimes mutates into betrayal or hate under pressure of poverty), what we owe to our fellow humans and vise versa, grace or the lack of it under extreme pressure, and the wisdom or folly of optimism for the future. I expect there are themes, subtleties, and symbolisms that I overlook, but they're extremely rich brews of ideas that can keep you pondering long after having seen them. What they are most emphatically NOT is light entertainment. Dark and somewhat depressing, they explore how severe economic pressures degrade the quality of life, and poison relationships with our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community and government. In this, they are not the least bit dated, and show that while individual issues may vary with time, human nature doesn't.If I had to recommend only one of the two of Odets' plays on DVD, I would probably go for "Paradise Lost," which I think deals with a wider array of issues and characters. Personally I find them both indispensable, and Walter Matthau's sardonic performance as Moe Axelrod in "Awake and Sing" is really excellent. It's a perfect role for him.The only reason I wouldn't give it 5 stars is that the dated video source presents a slightly fuzzy picture with inconsistent color quality, and the sound quality is mediocre at best. This, to me, is of little importance when dealing with such excellent content. The fact that there are no other comments here thus far suggests that people are passing these up. It's really great stuff. Don't miss it. Buy it, to encourage more of the same on DVD."
Awake and Sing
NMdesapio | 05/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This play was great. I feel that the playwrite caught the essense of the story & it's one of the best I've seen of Walter Matthau in the Broadway theater archive series. I am becomeing a real fan of broadway theater archive series as well."
Walter Matthau's Towering Performance
NMdesapio | 03/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Walter Matthau is brilliant as the physically and spiritually impoverished Moe Axelrod in this 1972 television production of Clifford Odets' Depression-era drama AWAKE AND SING! Matthau is the most famous "name" in the production, yet he blends beautifully into a top-notch ensemble cast that includes Ruth Storey as matriarch Bessie Berger, who has pretensions of culture and wealth; Leo Fuchs as Grandfather Jacob, who looks to both the Bible and the words of Karl Marx for inspiration during hard economic times; and Robert Lipton as his grandson, Ralph Berger, who will be the one to break the spell - that is, the preoccupation with money - that has mesmerized this financially reduced family. Under the direction of Norman Lloyd and Robert Hopkins, Odets' dialogue crackles and snaps; and small touches, from the actors' speech inflections to the menorah that adorns the dining room of the Bergers' modest tenement home, suggest the family's Jewish ethnic identity. One could not imagine a more perfect production of this play. An interesting footnote: Felicia Farr, who portrays Hennie Berger, was married to the late actor Jack Lemmon - so as Axelrod in AWAKE AND SING! Walter Matthau was romancing the wife of his best friend!"
Don't judge the play by this film version
TravelMod | New York, NY USA | 02/04/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"There is a stage revival of this play recently presented in New York and I was curious to see this film version. I found it very dull. Walter Matthau acted very well but I thought him miscast (appearing too old, to me, for the part of the angry war vet). Felicia Farr (Jack Lemmon's wife) was excellent, though certainly there was no chemistry between her and Matthau. I don't know what happened to actor Robert Lipton; he does a good job here as the frustrated idealist. As a bit of theatrical history (many consider this to be Odets's best play), you could do worse, but the play deserves a better film version.