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Social protest plays are—how to put it?—utterly unfashionable at this moment in history, and that’s why there’s retro refreshment to be had in Feet of Clay’s resurrection of Winterset, one of two tragedies by Maxwell Anderson (the other is the more realistic Gods of the Lightning) inspired by the execution of infamous anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. The country was ripe for poetic polemic in those days, and Winterset was a popular and critical smash, taking the 1935 New York Drama Critics Circle Award. But plays larded with classical allusions and socialist political stances aren’t frequently revived in America today—no matter how timely the issue they treat. That’s exactly what makes Winterset exciting. A bristling production by up-and-coming German director Anja Klöck treats the dense script a tad too reverentially—the second act in particular drags—but an exuberant young cast mostly succeeds at finding the thrill of Anderson’s language and ideas. An impoverished New York neighborhood reels in the wake of an execution of a local man. Its denizens—the guilty, the mad, and the hopeful—gather, question, and explode with the intensity of a bright dream, aided hugely by Kim Deane’s off-kilter, vaguely expressionist set. Unfortunately, the bloodless performances of two central characters detract from the piece’s power: Phil Bolin’s Garth—probably the only radical Jew in history named Garth—is clearly intended to be a panicky, disenfranchised, and guilt-ridden prole who helped send an innocent man to the chair; instead, he evokes a petulant bourgeois teen from the ‘burbs. And Garth’s sister, Miriamne, played by Dana Edwards, falls short of the fiery working-class heroine she should be, coming off instead as a terribly limpid lumpen. Miriamne falls for a handsome drifter, the son of the executed innocent, whose search for the truth coincides with a crackdown on political expression by both the police and a neighborhood thug. As the latter, Hugh T. Owen is the focus of the play, with his snarling swagger and grimy leather togs, but another supporting cast member deserves equal mention: Robyn Accetta’s mentally impaired homeless girl imbues the stage with emotional content with just a few lines and a chokehold of a gaze. “Truth’s like a fire, and will burn through and be seen,” Anderson once said in another context, and with this Winterset, the newly formed Feet of Clay has left a respectable scorch mark on the current theater scene. —Neda Ulaby