Just a few years ago, the gripping theater piece “Decade at a Glance” by Joan Evans would probably have felt harrowing but distant.
After all, Evans uses the Great Depression era photos of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans (below) as the starting point for a theatrical examination of the impact of the financial apocalypse on Midwest farmers in the 1930s.
The loss of money and work and hope would be moving in any period, but at this particular moment — when we might still be on the edge of a global financial abyss — “Decade at a Glance” has the scary feel of history repeating itself.
Evans combines dance and drama and vintage tunes for a piece that only runs about an hour, but which will leave you with more to think about than the average play that is twice as long.
“Decade at a Glance” is a co-production of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Harold Clurman Center for New Works in Movement and Dance Theatre. The show is being presented at the Adler studio through March 7 in a very intimate space that heightens the drama and the emotional impact of the material.
The piece begins in a city (presumably New York) where the ensemble sings a mordant version of “We’re in the Money,” dressed in ragged overcoats.
Evans and the cast quickly fill us in on the Franklin Roosevelt programs that put lots of urban people back to work (including artists like Lange and Evans who were hired by the federal government to travel the country photographing victims of the Depression).
The relief programs were focused mostly on the urban areas of the two coasts, however. The problems in the middle of the country actually got worse in the 1930s as poverty increased and climate changes devastated the area (i.e., the notorious dust storms that destroyed crops and killed farm animals).
For many of these Middle Americans, the only two choices were to starve where they were or to scrape a few bucks together and head out to California (the journey in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”).
“Decade at a Glance” features a wonderful ensemble of young actors, most of whom are recent graduates of acting schools around the city.
The company works together so tightly that it would unfair to single one or two of them out. The actors are: Lizzi Albert, Laura Carbonell, Erika Cazeneuve, Annie Chang, Aidan Koehler, Gaja Massaro, Rafa Miguel, Tommy Nelms, Sean Powell, Lulu Rossbacher, Melanie Siegel, Margaux Susi, Elise Toscano, Cythnia Vasquez and Sarah Wharton.
At $18 a ticket — students are only $5 — this is one of the great New York theater bargains of the moment. For more information, go to www.stellaadler.com.