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Injunction Granted

Exciting and powerful agitprop play from the Federal Theatre Project, circa 1936, will make you want to write to your congressperson – and picket!

Kendall Rileigh, Nathaniel P. Claridad, Cliff Miller, Lorinne Lampert and Perri Yaniv in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Jacob J. Goldberg Photography)

Kendall Rileigh, Nathaniel P. Claridad, Cliff Miller, Lorinne Lampert and Perri Yaniv in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Jacob J. Goldberg Photography)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

The recent national rallies to raise the minimum wage have made the Federal Theater Project’s 1936 Injunction Granted relevant all over again. This play created by the Editorial Board of the Living Newspaper Unit of the FTP depicting the conflict of labor versus capital in the U.S. over almost 300 years turns out to be powerful theater in this revival by Metropolitan Playhouse. The third of the FTP Living Newspapers to be revived by this theater following One-Third of a Nation and Power, Alex Roe’s lively and inventive production uses six actors to play 200 characters in a vaudeville-like atmosphere.

Kendall Rileigh and Cliff Miller in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Ed Forti)

Kendall Rileigh and Cliff Miller in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Ed Forti)

Performed in 28 short scenes and two parts, Injunction Granted follows the history of the struggle of unions against management from indentured servants leaving 17th century England for the 13 Colonies, and moving quickly to Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, 1676, all the way up to Depression Era U.S.A. in 1936 when the play received its premiere at Broadway’s Biltmore Theatre. With Roe himself acting as uncredited circus Master of Ceremonies and narrator, the five other actors are dressed as members of various theatrical professions: Nathaniel P. Claridad (magician), Lorinne Lampert (dancer), Cliff Miller (electrician), Kendall Rileigh (acrobat), and Perri Yaniv (accordionist). While some of the characters they play are still famous such as John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Gompers, many are names that have been lost to history.

Nathaniel P. Claridad, Kendall Rileigh, Perri Yaniv (on the accordion), Cliff Miller and Lorrine Lampert in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Lois Segman)

Nathaniel P. Claridad, Kendall Rileigh, Perri Yaniv (on the accordion), Cliff Miller and Lorrine Lampert in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Lois Segman)

Wearing Rachael Kosch’s costumes in combinations on red, white and blue, the actors swiftly change pieces of their costumes as well as hats to represent  factory owners, judges, miners, bakers, tycoons, union organizers, etc. The program also points out that hats defined social class (the top hat, the stove pipe, periwig, bowler, straw pork pie, fedora and caps) and the actors (each appearing in almost every scene) wear a great many to differentiate their many roles. The scenes are preceded by a slide projection giving the name and the date plus often making use of historic photographs, the effective work of Michael Hardart who also created the sound design.

Siding with labor, the play is definitely agitprop but Roe’s vaudeville-style production is always entertaining and never pedantic, while the historical evidence piles up that the federal government and the American courts have usually sided with capital. The title “injunction granted” refers to the court orders that allowed employers to break strikes, stop picketing or suppress  publications. While the play depicts several well-known historical events (the Molly Maguires in 1875, the Pullman Strike in 1894, U.S. Steel in 1910), many of the events are just as startling but almost entirely forgotten today. However, the text drawn from 40 sources and credited to the “Editorial Board of the Living Newspaper” is most persuasive and still rousing after all these years.

Cliff Miller and Lorinne Lampert in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Jacob J. Goldberg Photography)

Cliff Miller and Lorinne Lampert in a scene from “Injunction Granted” (Photo credit: Jacob J. Goldberg Photography)

Each scene is presented in a different style as one would expect in a vaudeville. While all the members of the cast are effective in various scenes, Lorinne Lampert is notable for demonstrating the most energy and animation. Other memorable elements are the fluid staging and setting by Roe which allow for the 28 scenes to pass without any time lost for set

changes, as well as the acrobatics by Kendall Rileigh and the original music by Michael Kosch. While Injunction Granted has a decided leftist political view, the thorough research and the piling up of evidence make this a persuasive as well as entertaining historical panorama.

Injunction Granted (through June 28, 2015)

Metropolitan Playhouse, 520 E. 4th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit http://www.metropolitanplayhouse.org

Running time: one hour and 40 minutes including one intermission

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (403 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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