I have seen only two brilliant plays in my life, and Brits wrote both. David Halliwell's surreal 1966 tragicomedy, Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, was the first. John Osborne's 1956 masterpiece, Look Back in Anger, is now the second.
Another Round Theater Co.'s production of Osborne's play (directed by Kevin Adkins) shows why the piece was so groundbreaking in its day—and why it remains as powerful as ever. One of the first modern English plays at the time, Anger deals with the frustrations of a rebellious youth who does not belong in the complacent 1950s.
There is no revolution to fight, at least not in England, so Jimmy (Sean Hesketh) spends his days picking apart insignificant stories in the local paper, unleashing his genius IQ on mundane topics for a sure-fire intellectual victory. To help him along, even if only with personal, jovial barbs, is his housemate Cliff (Martin Winslow), who finds Jimmy disturbed, usually right and tragically amusing. The punching bag of the piece, Jimmy's wife, Alison (Angela Lopez), is the odd bird, sticking around for endless verbal abuse from Jimmy if only to annoy her parents, blue bloods who can't understand why their daughter married a commoner. In comparison to her cultured, whitewashed upbringing, Jimmy's brand of love is at least honest and emotional; most of that emotion runs toward the destructive. Her yearning for that revolution but inability to really cultivate the revolutionary spirit is often the cause of Jimmy's constant ravings. And that's Jimmy's tragedy: a soul meant for something like the French Revolution has been reduced to petty battles in which personal invective takes the place of real arms.
The cast of this production, directed by Kevin Adkins, is exceptional, making the longer than two hours of intimate, psychologically challenging drama of malcontents a fascinating journey that continues after you leave the theater.
Look Back in Anger by Another Round Theater Co. at the Hunger Artists Theater, 699-A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 680-6803. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; also Nov. 24, 8 p.m. Through Nov. 30. $12-$15.