Saturday, November 6, 2010

Surprising Results All Around 'In the Wake'

Danielle Skraastad, Susan Pourfar, Marin Ireland, Miriam F. Glover and Chernus, above, talk politics “In the Wake,”as does Danielle Skraastad, Michael Chernus, Marin Ireland, below. Photos by Joan Marcus.


“IN the Wake,”
which opened at The Public Theater on Election Day after two weeks of previews, is as bracing as that first crisp gust of fall. It’s tantalizing and refreshing but somehow you know it’s going to be a long, hard winter.

Ellen steps forward to address an audience. As Ellen, the captivatingly expressive Marin Ireland, is always lecturing someone – generally about politics.

Ellen is talking about blind spots, and we assume the only wreck she is describing is the 2000 Presidential election and its aftermath of war and lies. “In the Wake” author Lisa Kron (“Well”) weaves detailed personal narratives into a politically charged framework.

Politics are not Ellen’s only blind spot. Her life is complicated not only by her devotion to left-leaning politics and work with foreign-aid charities. Like her sister-in-law, Kayla (Susan Pourfar), and her friend and houseguest, Judy (Deirdre O’Connell), Ellen works in the world of do-good non-profits. Her particular expertise is the rather arcane and well-articulated issues of tax codes and how they further the goals of the right.

Ellen is intense and she and Kayla can’t shut off the CNN coverage of the recount of 2000 even to celebrate Thanksgiving. Michael Chernus is charming as Danny, Kayla’s brother and Ellen’s live-in boyfriend. He hands out pilgrim collars and dons a hat, reminding Ellen that Laurie (Danielle Skraastad), Kayla’s wife, will be annoyed by all the political talk.

Kayla and Laurie both dislike Judy, DO’C in an excellent and droll turn, who has just returned from aid work in Africa. Judy is also intense, caught up in the world of ethnic wars she polices. She is moving to D.C. because, as it turns out, she is involved with a married man who will be working there.

Everyone here – Danny, Kayla, Judy, Laurie, and Ellen – is on the same page, certain that the results of the 2000 Election are a disaster for freedom and will lead to greater injustices everywhere. Judy’s niece, Tessa, an unaffected Miriam F. Glover, has come to live with her. She wonders why her schoolmates are so hard on George W. Bush. Our band of well-meaning liberals asks her if she doesn’t know what it feels like being an outsider since she is a black girl in a small Kentucky town. She doesn’t understand what they mean: “I’m mixed. My mother’s white.”

The politics are the intelligent icing on this story of relationships and romance.

At one point, Ellen tells Judy about Kayla and Laurie’s wedding. All of Kayla and Danny’s family attended and were puzzled that the lesbians had a big wedding, whereas she and Danny weren’t getting married.

As “In the Wake” unfolds, another impediment arises to a happy ending for Danny and Ellen. She meets Amy (Jenny Bacon)at a lecture and their relationship blossoms. Now Ellen must choose.

The choice she makes is unexpected, like the blind spot to which she alludes in the beginning. “In the Wake” is unexpected at every turn, and nothing is easy or facile.

For tickets and general information about “In the Wake” visit,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,141/id,1012/.

Tamara Beck is President, Clean Lists Associates, Inc, an association management firm. And an avid theater-goer.

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