In honor of Filipino American History Month, the Asian American-centric New York City-based Ma-Yi Theater Company is streaming Clifford Odets in Staten Island, a charming family-oriented situation comedy-style digital work. Jack Tamburri’s straightforward direction contains artful flourishes accentuated by Thomas Moon’s sharp cinematography.
Everywhere now, men are rising from their sleep. Men– men are understanding the bitter, black total of their lives. Their whispers are growing to shouts. They become an ocean of understanding. No man fights alone.
Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty
An idealistic down on his luck Filipino American father home schools his two children. To teach them about The Great Depression and the present U.S. economy, he has them study the plays of Clifford Odets. The realistic portions of the production set in a house and outdoors are in color, these alternate with striking black and white performance portions of the boxing drama Golden Boy and the labor strike play Waiting for Lefty in various locales such as the backyard and the den. It’s all quite engaging and hearing Odets’ unique hard-edged poetic dialogue is a lovely reminder of his historic place in the American theater.
But I did it! That’s the thing—I did it! What will my father say when he hears I murdered a man? Lorna, I see what I did. I murdered myself, too! I’ve been running around in circles. Now I’m smashed!
Clifford Odets, Golden Boy
Writers Michi Barall and Sung Rno’s well-crafted scenario meshes seriousness with humorous touches reminiscent of the domestic sit-com, The Middle. Topical references and plot points that the appealing characters contend with include Tik Tok, YouTube, Venmo and Bitcoin.
Ron Domingo’s winning performance as the father is in the classic television Dad tradition. Lynn Taylor sparkles as the long-suffering wife and dutiful mother. That Mr. Domingo and Ms. Taylor are married to each other generates a warm and realistic dynamic. The children are played by their children, Connor Domingo and Autumn Domingo. They each offer animated and wise adolescent portrayals. Domingo’s mother, Consuelo Domingo pops up for further comic relief. Kassandra Cordova, Nolan Hidaka and Ralph B. Peña make enjoyable appearances as other characters.
The thoughtfully entertaining Clifford Odets in Staten Island is a companion piece to last year’s streamed offering, Sophocles in Staten Island which chronicled the Domingo’s adventures with Greek tragedy.
Clifford Odets in Staten Island (streaming through March 31, 2022)
Ma-Yi Theater Company
For tickets, visit http://www.ma-yitheatre.org
Running time: 37 minutes