In a beautifully run-down and cluttered shack of a building (nicely designed by Zach Morgan), we meet a group of people down on their luck (as many people were in the Depression). Among them are an immigrant couple, an actor, a shoemaker, a formerly wealthy society lady, and a prostitute. Keeping them in line are the dysfunctional family of the landlord, his wife, and her sister. Into their midst comes a self-described pilgrim, affectionately called "old man" or "gramps" by the others. He listens to the residents, comforts them, and tells them what they need to hear to soothe or provoke them into action. Love, abuse, camaraderie, death, and celebration all have their place here in the lower depths. One of the residents happily exclaims that all you need is "food, drink, music, and friends," but there's a desperation hiding beneath the surface of the frivolity of drinking and the daily routines of shopping and sweeping. As the Wikipedia page nicely sums up, "The theme of harsh truth versus the comforting lie pervades the play from start to finish, as most of the characters choose to deceive themselves from the bleak reality of their condition."
|the cast of The Lower Depths|
(photo by Mathieu Lindquist)
The Lower Depths plays at nimbus theatre's space in Northeast Minneapolis through December 22. It's nice counter-programming to the likes of A Christmas Carol, and deals with some of the same themes of poverty and generosity, but in a more somber way. I'll leave you with another quote from the director:
In a time when issues of class disparity, morality and social welfare are taking the spotlight in our national conversation, this 110-year-old work has never felt like it had more to say. But the remarkable part about this play is that it does not preach. It simply shows. A world, a diverse set of characters, and their diverse set of views on truth and the human condition. Each one has insights, Each one has weaknesses. we are left to come to our own conclusions.