Friday, June 11, 2010

Can You Hear Their Voices?

Produced by the Peculiar Works Project

Depression-Era Woes, Echoing in the Present
- NY Times, June 11, 2010

There’s nothing for sale in the vacant store where “Can You Hear Their Voices?” is being performed. No shelves, registers or clerks, either. Yet there’s constant talk of money, of business, of labor. The play, a nifty piece of agitprop from the Depression, isn’t shy when voicing ideas about the American economy, and this production, as heavy-handed as it sometimes turns, doesn’t have to stretch too far to find parallels to current events.

First staged in 1931, “Voices” was adapted by Hallie Flanagan and Margaret Ellen Clifford from a short story by Whittaker Chambers, who was then an avowed communist. The tale, based on real incidents, documents a group of Dust Bowl farmers and their growing frustration over the lack of a government response to their plight.

Throughout the play, scenes of the farmers’ suffering alternate with episodes of the decadent rich enjoying lavish lives. One group debates socialism. The other denounces state-run aid. While there is never a question where your sympathies should lie, the script features a few powerful moments, including a final scene that stirs plenty of passion.

Recently I have been hitting a number of mental and emotional blocks to continuing my study of this period, and was considering abandoning it entirely. This morning, reading this review, it was like I was sitting on an atomic bomb, waiting for it to go off.

Sorry - saw THE ROOM for the first time last weekend.

My recent impulse has been to throw over the 1936 project, for which I still had not solidified a plot and resume work on a piece about Cleveland in the 1950s. And I have suddenly realized that the to are not mutually exclusive.

My wife, apparently, figured this out a long time ago, but neglected to tell me.

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