Sinclair Lewis’s Nobel Prize–winning satire of the American middle class
Zenith is like many American cities in the wake of the First World War: midsize, industrial, booming with opportunities for enterprising capitalists. But Zenith is unique as a middling metropolis; within its wandering streets walks one George Babbitt, world-class realtor, American dreamer, social climber, and civic booster.
But unexpectedly, dark clouds appear on Babbitt’s horizon: his best friend, a convicted murderer? His eldest daughter, a wretched socialist? Coddled by the trappings of his professional and personal success, how can Babbitt become stricken with loneliness, dissatisfaction, and frustration?
First published in 1922, Lewis Sinclair’s contentious bestselling satire of middle-class America is more relevant than ever.
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Lewis's tale of middle-class frustration, stress and success in the 1920s is brought to life by the L.A. Theatre Works' 1987 full cast production featuring more than 30 actors, including Ed Asner (as Babbitt), Judge Reinhold, Ted Danson, Richard Dreyfuss, Helen Hunt and John Lithgow. With a deep and raspy voice and with great projection, Asner delivers a believable and amusing performance that securely anchors the entire production. Whether bullying his family or spouting politics with his friends at the club, Asner keeps the consistency of the self-aggrandizing character solid throughout. Jazz music segues well between scenes, though without any additional production sound beyond voices, it can at times feel out of place. While the full cast proves enjoyable in their individual parts, many take turns narrating the exposition throughout the production. At times, this is executed well, but sometimes it feels as if the director is just trying to give everyone more voice time.