by Michael Meigs
Encouraged by applause at last year's FronteraFest, recent graduates of Southwestern and St. Ed's are taking a great big leap right now at the Off Center.
Look Back in Anger was a landmark, a watershed, a paradigm shifter (take your pick) for twentieth-century theatre in England. With his 1956 three-act play John Osborne took clubs and cudgels to the genteel British stage, presenting his protagonist Jimmy Porter as a fiercely intelligent university graduate of lower class origins, white hot with anger at a society that provided him no better opportunity in life than a position as a clerk in a candy store. Porter lives with his wife Alison in grubby rented digs. Their stolid, slightly dim friend Cliff has a room in the same building and spends most of his time with them
Osborne gave articulate voice to the British underclass. Jimmy Porter professes to believe in nothing and spends most of his time onstage ranting, challenging and insulting. Alison is a mute, intellectually brutalized young thing occupied most of the time with the ironing. The perpetual trope between the two men is Cliff's effort to read the newspapers and Porter's acrid dismissals both of him and of the 'posh rags.' There's a back story: Alison grew up in India, where her father served and became a senior military officer, and Alison's mother has never forgiven the crudely offensive Porter for overwhelming their daughter, marrying her, and taking her off to live in poverty.
Director Tyler King and the cast of Out of Context Productions (OOC), with the encouragement of mentor Jared J. Stein, theatre department staffs, and Austin arts supporters, have thrown themselves into the project. The productions runs on the highly unusual cycle of Mondays through Wednesdays, from December 1 to December 14 -- evenings not calibrated to attract the idly curious or the general public. Within the black box of the Off Center they've put up Leslie Turner's meticulously squalid set.