Clifford Odets’ 1935 play centering around a cab drivers’ union planning a strike, first staged by the massively influential Group Theatre in New York, has become one of those plays you read in history and literature classes but rarely see produced these days, when most theater companies tend to believe that audiences are allergic to overly political theater. American Blues Theater’s production–tightly directed, passionately acted by a committed ensemble, perfectly paced–succeeds all the more for keeping the material from feeling even a little dated, almost a century later. Director Kimberly Senior pulls no emotional punches in the multiple vignettes of desperation and impotent rage (all-too-familiar in 2011), but with a light, steady hand that maneuvers between high-stakes scenarios with delicacy and artistry. The acting matches with controlled intensity, and the show’s famous trick of planting actors in the audience to break the fourth wall still feels fresh. (Monica Westin)
At Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 North Lincoln, (773)871-3000. Through October 2.