Myron and Bessie Berger live in a small apartment with Bessie's Russian immigrant father Jacob, and the couple's adult children Hennie and Ralph. Lacking enough bedrooms, Ralph sleeps on the couch in the front room, but his mother assures him that as soon as Hennie gets married he can have her room. Hennie wants more from life than marrying a man she doesn't love just to get out of her mother's hair, but a young woman in the '30s doesn't have a lot of choices. Ralph's tragedy is that he loves a woman of whom his mother does not approve, an orphan. The fascinating family dynamic includes a grandfather who's a friend and confidant to his grandchildren, a sweet but ineffectual father, and a strong and opinionated mother who thinks she knows what's best for everyone and won't take no for an answer. But I don't blame her, or think she's a bad mother. On the contrary, she's a good mother who loves her family and has had to fight every day for their survival. If she's a little harsh, well, that's the only way she knows how to survive. She's stuck in her life, but her children have a chance to make something bigger for themselves.
|the Berger family gathered around the dinner table|
(photo by Devon Cox)
|the cast of Awake and Sing! (photo by Devon Cox)|
This 80-year-old play stands the test of time. It's beautifully written, full of specifically drawn and very human characters comprising a relatable family, with realistic dialogue and situations. It's about a specific time and place in American history, explores generational conflict, and shines a light on everyday people who have to work hard just to survive. Artistry's production brings it to life beautifully in a way that you really feel like you know this family and feel for them (#bringtissues).
Awake and Sing! continues through October 7.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.