The Forward is a failed relic of the left and it’s appropriate enough for it to celebrate Cradle Will Rock, another failed relic of the left.
If the performance of Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” by the “Encores! Off-Center” series, which just ended its all-too-brief five-performance run July 13 at New York City Center, is not recorded for posterity, it will be a major loss.
When you’re down to five performances and hoping someone videotapes the thing and puts in on YouTube so that lefties can put it on their playlist next to Angels in America and the trailer for Reds, it’s about as hopeful as the return of the USSR.
To call it revelatory is an understatement. This searing, hilarious and deeply affecting production resurrected a show that had been regarded as a famous but historical agitprop curio from the depths of the Depression.
And more accurately regarded as cheap Communist propaganda that the left occasionally tries to revive only for it to fall back into the rubbish bin of history.
This semi-staged version, choreographed by Chase Brock, directed by Sam Gold and conducted by Chris Fenwick, had no need of sets to turn the work into a relevant and vital powerhouse in its swift 90-minute arc.
Translation, no one bothered with sets because there were only five performances. And probably 5 people in the audience.
The now-legendary premiere of this work in 1937, recounted in Tim Robbins’s 1999 film of the same name, had to dispense with sets too. It was directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman for the Federal Theater Project of the WPA. However, causing alarm because of its politics, the production was cancelled before it could open. Uncowed, the cast walked to another theater and put the show on anyway, with the composer playing the piano and the actors performing their parts from seats in the audience — defying yet honoring the injunction forbidding them to appear onstage. Largely because of this show, Congress later killed the whole federal program.
And good riddance. The United States isn’t supposed to have agit prop government propaganda.
Underlining the argument was a program insert of shocking facts, imitating Harper Magazine’s “Index,” such as that the income of the top 1% of earners in 2007 comprised 23.5% of the economy; that 1929 was the last year that percentage was so high, and that the income inequality has only increased since the 2008 downturn.
You’ll have to ask George Soros and Warren Buffett about that.