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The Lower Depths

The Lower Depths
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Maxim Gorky
Translated by: Alex Szogyi
Publisher: Samuel French
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 72
Pub. Date: 1992
ISBN-10: 0573611866
ISBN-13: 9780573611865
Cast Size: 5 women, 12 men

About the Play:

Lower Depths is a full-length drama by Maxim Gorky, translated by Alex Szogyi. A band of down-and-outers debate the wisdom of living without illusions versus maintaining a romanticized worldview. Widely regarded as Maxim Gorky's dramatic masterpiece, The Lower Depths reveals not only their degradation but also the absurdity and purity of their hope.

The Lower Depths is generally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern theatre. In dramatizing the relationships of this handful of big city derelicts Maxim Gorky has written a pay of universal human values. In this sketch of the dregs of Russian society a group of hilarious, downtrodden lodgers are living in a boarding house: a thief, a degenerate baron, a prostitute, an alcoholic actor, the seedy proprietor, his sister in law who loves the thief and others. Their lives consist of staving away hunger and poverty mixed with idle entertainment until a pilgrim, Luka, arrives on the scene. Luka brings with him tales of the world abroad as well as a seemingly bottomless supply of hope and dreams. He inspires the residents of the boarding house to reach and try to pick themselves up from the dregs of society, while teaching love and respect and responsibility. However, charged with the fire Luka kindles in them, the muck at The Lower Depths begins to stir, and a brawl erupts, the proprietor is killed, others are jailed and the drunken actor rises to the pinnacle of his performance by hanging himself. Maxim Gorky's eye for physical detail, and special talent for breathing life into down-and-out characters on the fringes of society, are brilliantly displayed in this compelling drama.

Lower Depths was first performed in 1902 at the Moscow Art Theatre, directed by and starring Constantin Stanislavski, and became one of that company's best known productions. This translation by Alex Szogyi was first performed in 1971 at Lincoln Center Drama Workshop and then off Broadway in 1972 at the Good Shepard Church next to the Julliard School.

Cast: 5 women, 12 men

What people say:

"The translation by Alex Szogyi is swift and lucid, pruning language and brambles in the text. Szogyi has not altered Gorky, but he has made him newly naturalistic." — New York Times

"It is, perhaps not a play at all, but a slow moving graphic panorama of unrelieved woe. Nevertheless, truth is stamped indelibly upon it; it is the work of a master of dramatic realism." — New York World

About the Playwright:

Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was the pseudonym of Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov, a Russian short story writer, novelist, autobiographer, essayist, and political activist whose life was deeply interwoven with the tumultuous revolutionary period of his own country.

Alex Szogyi (1900-1977) was an American scholar and translator whose expertise and enthusiasms included French literature, theater, film, the plays of Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky. His teaching career spanned forty years. He taught at various times at Yale University, Wesleyan College, Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center and served as chairperson of the department of romance languages at Hunter from 1970 to 1977.

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