Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Waiting for Lefty
Quintessence Theatre Group
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent reviews of The Ways of White Folks and Charlotte's Web

Buzz Roddy, Angelica Santiago, and Doug Harris
Photo by Linda Jonson
The talented folks at Quintessence Theatre Group have a knack for doing the right play at the right time. Inspired by the 1934 strike of unionized taxi drivers in New York, Clifford Odets' classic Waiting for Lefty speaks to the devastating impact of unfair working conditions in the United States. The raw humanity on display and the urgent call to action feel as relevant today as they must have when Waiting for Lefty premiered in 1935.

As the play starts, the audience find themselves in a union meeting of taxi drivers. Actors moving about the house and, seated among the audience, contribute to the sense that we are part of the meeting taking place, rather than mere spectators. The union members seem ready to strike for a fair wage, over the objections of their union boss, but they will not be ready to move forward until their true leader Lefty arrives.

During the contentious meeting, the audience is shown seven flashbacks in the form of short vignettes. Each vignette tells the story of how one union worker reached the conclusion that a strike was the only way forward, despite grave risks and uncertain success.

Doug Harris is achingly earnest and painfully worn-down as Joe. The frustration and love and anger that shape the conflict between Joe and his wife Edna feel instantly authentic. Angelica Santiago plays Edna, understandably angry and unwilling to be anyone's victim, like a smoldering fire about to burst into flame. There is great chemistry between Katherine Perry and Daniel Melo, who play internally struggling Florrie and utterly resigned Sid. Perry and Melo convey a profound sense of sadness and loss that is heartbreaking. Michael Liebhauser is terrific as Dr. Benjamin, resolved to turn his suffering into meaningful action.

Lindsay Furori's scenic design is simple but effective. The lighting design by Elizabeth Stewart adds drama and effectively delineates different locations and moments in time. I especially enjoyed Zhang Yu's costume design which feels timeless despite being period appropriate.

Many of the characters in Waiting for Lefty are filled with desperation and anger. But they are not without hope. The authenticity of their struggle to find empowerment in the midst of despair is what makes director Kyle Haden's production so incredibly powerful. Go see and feel it for yourself.

Quintessence Theatre Group's Waiting for Lefty runs through February 12, 2023, at the Sedgwick Theatre, 7137 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit or call 215-987-4450.

Buzz Roddy: Fatt
Lee Cortopassi: Irv
Michael Liebhauser: Dr. Benjamin
Rachel Brodeur: Fayette
Kimie Myroya: Miller
Doug Harris: Joe
Angelica Santiago: Edna
Katherine Perry: Florrie
Monroe Barrick: Dr. Barnes/Agate

Scenic Design: Lindsay Furori
Lighting Design: Elizabeth Stewart
Costume Design: Zhang Yu
Sound Design: Chris Lane
Props Design: J. Bean Schwab