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Waiting for Lefty

The Communist Manifesto

strike ‘the play scenes

by Clifford Odets, his most famous short play, first produced by the Group Theatre on 6 January 1935 at a benefit for striking cab drivers. Framed by an introduction and conclusion are six memory scenes (later five), which, on a darkened stage, reveal the injustices of working people's lives. At a strike meeting, taxi drivers await their leader, Lefty Costello, while a corrupt union boss, Harry Fatt, supported by an armed thug, advises against industrial action. He permits the six committeemen to address the workers, and their personal circumstances are dramatized in the following scenes. First, Edna persuades Joe to strike for their children's sake, then, in ‘The Lab Assistant’, Miller refuses to make poison gas for the government; in ‘The Young Hack and His Girl’, Sid and Florrie realize that they cannot marry without a living wage, while in ‘Labor Spy Episode’, Fatt introduces a cab driver who is then exposed as a company stooge. ‘The Young Actor’ includes a reference to The Communist Manifesto, and was later dropped from the play. ‘Interne Episode’ attacks anti-Semitism, and shows how medicine is sacrificed to capitalist interests. Finally, Agate Keller urges collective action, and on hearing that Lefty has been murdered, the meeting, including the actors in the audience, cries out ‘STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE!!!’

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