A Rich Bounty of Raves for “After The Revolution!” 5 Stars!!!!!

1) Washington Post Raves!

IN THEATER J’S ‘AFTER THE REVOLUTION,’ A LEFTY CLAN CRUMBLES.

A FIRST-RATE WASHINGTON PLAY — SET ELSEWHERE — ABOUT A POWERFUL SECRET.

In Amy Herzog’s ‘After the Revolution’ at Theater J, an activist family’s secrets revealed

By Nelson Pressley, Thursday, September 12, 5:40 PM 

Amy Herzog’s savvy “After the Revolution” is set in New York and Boston, but it’s a first-rate Washington play. The drama, being acted with heart and intelligence at Theater J, follows a family of hard-core lefties through a spying scandal — an imminent uproar that threatens to tar the clan’s name and cost a social justice foundation millions of dollars.The foundation was created by Emma Joseph, the activist family’s blazing new star. Emma named the foundation for her late grandfather, Joe, a lion of progressivism who battled his way through the McCarthy hearings back in the 1950s.  (To keep reading, click here)
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2) ‘After the Revolution’ at Theater J by John Stoltenberg

Who would have guessed that a family drama about everyday ethics and far-left ideology could be so engrossing and engaging, the characters so real and riveting, that what happens on stage enters one’s mind as if the fourth wall has fallen?—as

if the the play has liberated a new theater zone?—as if the tension between character and conscience seems more alive than in real life?

(L to R): Susan Rome, Peter Birkenhead, and Megan Anderson. Photo by Stan Barouh.

(L to R): Susan Rome, Peter Birkenhead, and Megan Anderson. Photo by Stan Barouh.

After you see After the Revolution at Theater J—as any thoughtful theatergoer with a moral compass and a pulse must—you’ll know what I’m talking about. This brilliant play by Amy Herzog, in a brilliant production directed by Eleanor Holdridge, invites us into a shared experience that is in its own way…revolutionary. (to read more, click here)

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Nancy Robinette excels as the elderly revolutionary Vera in Amy Herzog’s intense family drama.

Theater J certainly has a gift for uniting the political with the personal, as seen in its engrossing season opener, After The Revolution.

Amy Herzog’s play explores how the Joseph family’s dynamics interact with its history of political persecution. Emma Joseph (Megan Anderson) is the daughter of radical Marxists, though she’s the only member of her generation to have followed in her family’s politically active footsteps. Her passion is the plight of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose treatment after being accused of shooting a Philadelphia police officer has been questioned by many civil-rights activists…

The acting propelling After the Revolution is staggering, elevating the play’s less consequential scenes; particularly enjoyable are Emma’s business lunches with Morty, an aging radical played with a casual, self-deprecating wisdom by James Slaughter. As Emma, Anderson’s nervous energy is engaging, exhausting, and entirely believable.Susan Rome also makes a powerful impression as Meg, Emma’s stepmother, a relatable figure whose own flirtations with activism were never fully embraced or respected by the domineering Joseph clan. But when Vera is in the picture, the stage belongs to Robinette. Her hearing problems and outdated stereotypes (lesbians = victims of abuse) could make her a caricature, easy to brush off. But Robinette gives Vera a sharp mind and a cutting tongue.

 To read the entirety of the review, click here

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4) Engaging and Tightly-Written

CurtainUp DC Review

“I look at most people your age . . .and I don’t know what they are for. Grandmother.” — Vera to her granddaughter Emma.“Good politics in my generation is different from good politics in your generation.” —Emma to Vera.
After the RevolutionNancy Robinette as Vera and Megan Anderson as Emma (Photo: Stan Barouh)

Amy Herzog’s engaging and tightly-written drama examines differences in perception regarding political and family allegiances in real time and in retrospect. The conflicts are genuine and very well presented.

The time is 1999. Grandpa Joe is dead but his memory and his name is evoked often by the Joseph family. Not the least by his fast-talking firebrand granddaughter Emma (in an excellent performance by Megan Anderson) who has just graduated from a New York law school. The family gathers at the New York home of Joe’s widow, Grandma Vera (nicely played with intelligence and understanding by Nancy Robinette), to celebrate, to talk about the past and Emma’s future. She is setting up and running a fund to help those who have suffered an injustice, such as the former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal who is accused of having killed a cop. Whether or not he is guilty concerns Emma less than the fact that he was denied a fair trial.

Emma’s fund is named for Grandpa Joe whose politics were driven by the desire to create change where he thought it was needed — for workers, women, and blacks. His idealism and communist activism led to his being blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities. One and two generations later that makes him a pc hero. His sons – Leo (Jeff Allin) a professor who is writing a book and Ben (Peter Birkenhead), Emma’s father who teaches high school and riles the PTA with his left-wing politics – revere their father and stepmother Vera who wanted nothing more than to support Joe and his causes. Her remarks about the differences between the politics of the Cold War and those of the 1990’s are poignant. “You can look back and say we did this wrong or we did that wrong, the point is it was for something,” says Grandma who finds Emma’s generation, but not Emma, apathetic.

As Emma begins her crusading work, a literary bombshell is about to explode. (To read more, click here)

5) Broadway World Reviews: Theater J Starts Season Strong with Clever, Thought-Provoking AFTER THE REVOLUTION

If this is how Theater J starts its season, I can’t wait to see what’s to come.”

Megan Anderson and Jim Slaughter in Amy Herzog's "After The Revolution" (photo by Stan Barouh)

13 thoughts on “A Rich Bounty of Raves for “After The Revolution!” 5 Stars!!!!!

  1. A riveting play by Amy Herzog, After The Revolution, exposes the deep soars caused by divisive ideology. The family being the most important political institution reveals the core of diverging sentiments and disharmony of the passionate heart. “The reconciliation of sin,” as put by Carlos Saldana (Miguel), was brought to life by the red symbolism within the set design; painting a picture of emotional discord. The stage pours red! A scary, yet sympathetic red. Red for passion, red for anger, red for confusion, and red for unity in time of growing racial divisions.
    It was observed that the red stains on the floor were highly concentrated near the living room. The living room was the only place in which the audience saw the grandmother Vera (Susan Rome) perform. Her multifaceted character represents a forgotten commitment, or perhaps like love, a blinding commitment to a revolutionary counter-culture in a period of the Second Red Scare (1947-1957).
    Like the ellipsis in the script, this play leaves no definite conclusions when the fervor of the heart takes control.
    Emma, the torn soul, struggled immensely with honoring the legacy of her grandfather Joe and her ethical desire to be honest. She spent four years exalting the name of a revolutionary to suddenly discover a painfully staking truth. The truth that her grandfather was a liar to the American government and a spy for his party. She cannot seem to separate a moral cause/movement from individual ethics and innocence. When speaking with Morty (James Slaughter), she was clear of the Mumia Abu-Jamal argument. It was not that he probably killed the police officer it was more so that he was receiving an unjust trial plagued by racism. Like Joe, you see her conflicted with Mumia later on showing her changing attitude.
    The way I see it, it is no different than the Miranda case of 1966, which established the Miranda Rights. Although Ernesto Miranda was clearly guilty, there needed to be a precedent to protect against the obstruction of civil rights. She calls herself a staunch activist but refuses to accept the reality of the time. She is an activist with a law degree working within the system that historically and continuously disenfranchises American citizens and she believes its wrong to break the law. To me, and many other characters in the play, getting your hands dirty was a prerequisite to true activism in face of a bigoted and corrupt government.

    • I love your analysis of the color red so prominently displayed on the stage. I find it ironic that the color red can display such contradictory imagery. On the one hand red represents fire and blood shed, which make me think of danger, pain and death. Yet, red is also symbolic of love, which make me think of warmth, intimacy and fulfillment.

      It seems like the red in this play is symbolic of all of these contradictory images linked to the color red. There is apparent fire or passion in all of the characters and their very strong beliefs. While we don’t see any physical blood shed, there is obvious pain as Emma discovers the truth about her grandfather and obvious discordance between the once close knit family ensues. Yet, there is a love shared amongst this family that is unequivocally displayed. Love, the reason Ben keeps this secret from Emma then later feels so bad about it and Love, the reason Emma finally puts her own morals to the side, to retain the respect and admiration she had for her grandfather.

    • Kevin, I’m really glad you analyze the meaning of the color red in the stage set. The creativity and thought that goes into the set design offers a lot of insight and meaning to the play. The red stains on the floor and the red backdrop catch the viewer’s attention immediately, even if subconsciously. Red is a unique color in that it may convey warm, romantic ideas, as well as turbulent, confusing ones, which perfectly capture the emotions in this production. Emma struggles between her resentment after discovering that the people she trusted lied to her about something incredibly important, and long-time family loyalty. Intermixed was the drama with her boyfriend Miguel, swinging from being perfect to a near break-up, which never fully got resolved. Red is the perfect color for conveying the ranging emotions in “After the Revolution.”

    • Kevin, I really appreciate your observation of the red incorporated throughout the set of After the Revolution. I too, was wondering what the symbolism of this color was. I found the red captivating, and it also reminded me of passion and heated emotion. The scattering of the red tissue evoked images of dissension, conflict, discord. Perhaps the scattered red was indicative of the opposing political beliefs of Emma, Grandpa Joe and her father Ben. The diffused red patches seemed to illustrate the schism formed between Emma, her father, and late grandfather. The red may also reflect politics in general. The beauty of engaging in politics is the subjective nature of the political realm. There is no right or wrong party- or right or wrong ideology. Our beliefs, actions, advocacy of legislation, etc., are all guided by law, but the way we engage in politics is entirely based on the decisions of each individual. It is this disharmony that produces so much passion, emotion, and often anger, or sadness. The scattered red patches seem to reflect these ideas too.

    • I really enjoy your analysis of the colors in the set. I also noticed the purposeful use of the color red. I thought a lot of the reason for the color was to signify the communist revolution. I thought that the way the curtain in the back looked as though it was continued onto the floor was also symbolic. The red on the floor seemed to be ripped parts of the curtain that was hanging crooked from the ceiling. Its as if this set which was meant to be the 1990s was showing a dream that was once alive and well as something that is starting to disintegrate. In this sense it is like the dream of communist revolution that is beginning to deplete throughout the generations in the story.

      • This is a really interesting point you raise in your comment about the ideological differences between the three generations. The audience begins to observe a transgression throughout the play: from communist spy to young woman who begins to question the ideas that she learned from her father. Perhaps in a few generations a Joseph will be passionate capitalist? I wonder if this is a conscious decision by the playwright to show a movement towards moderation and a distancing from dogma.
        As for the color scheme throughout the set, I agree as well that red is a deliberate and meaningful choice. What color could better signify communism and revolution then red? The choice of red was bold and when the curtain was opened, almost confrontational. A color like blue or yellow, or even the absence of color, would certainly set a very different tone and give the play a different feel.

  2. Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution was captivating, impactful, and left viewers not only entertained, but also eager to engage in critical analyses even past the auditorium doors. After the Revolution addressed themes such as social justice, racism, the flawed and often corrupt nature of our judicial system—and also our education system, the pros and cons of Communist ideology and practice, the family as an institution, and the list continues.

    One of my favorite characters was Mel, played by Susan Rome. Mel is sweet, caring, yet fearless in her unapologetic expression of her familial and political ideals. For me, Mel represented an era of revolutionaries who were so invested in demanding social justice, they were willing to be imprisoned, beaten, even killed for their cause. Although Mel was only jailed for a couple of days, she was willing to engage in act of civil disobedience without knowing what the outcome might be—or how it might effect her career, her relationships, her future in general. Mel’s character forced me to compare acts of revolution today, to revolution 50 or so years ago. 50 years ago, people my age were making careers out of fighting for social, racial, economic equality—and were willing to die at incredibly young ages to participate in these causes. Herzog made me question this current era, and the lack of political involvement and consciousness from today’s youth. Have we become complacent? So many Civil Rights leaders were killed for their immeasurable success in fighting injustice, are leaders now scared to emerge? Political involvement and revolution used to be at the forefront of many of our predecessors lives, have they become afterthoughts? What really encouraged this shift?

    I cannot say that I loved Emma’s character, played by Megan Anderson. It was definitely hard to identify with her stubbornness! However, one could not deny the innate good present in Emma, evident in her love and care for her family-although often withheld, and also in her decision to make a career out of defending the civil liberties of a convicted criminal. I think it is always powerful to see white allies to people of color. So much of what we see in the media are images of either negative or nonexistent relationships between white people and people of color—particularly Black and brown people. It was wonderful to see a white woman and a Latino man, Miguel, played by Carlos Saldana, come to the defense of a Black man- Mumia Abu-Jamal, without even caring whether he committed the crime he was convicted for or not. They were not only adamant about the fact that he had the right to a fair trial, but also acknowledged that his identity as a Black man, and Black Panther, influenced the decisions of a racist jury. This acknowledgment was also refreshing to hear during this time that so many refer to as “post-racial.”

    To say I was inspired would be an understatement. Kudos to Amy, and the entire cast!

  3. I enjoyed Theater J’s production of Amy Herzog’s “After the Revolution” thoroughly, in every regard. The performances of each actor and actress allowed me to gain an appreciation of the script that was not present when I read through it prior to viewing the play, a fact which allowed me to far more intimately understand and empathize with the characters. But, the play also captivated me technically too: the innovative, interesting stage setup which they adopted to deal with the multiple scenes present in each act was fascinating.

    Expanding on my different reactions between the spoken and read play, when I read “After the Revolution”, it was very difficult for me to empathize with Emma in particular. It seemed to me that she was being naïve and selfish and I honestly felt that I could not relate to her at all. During the production, however, I felt that I grew to understand her motivations, and while I still may not agree with them at all, I at least felt that they were supportable. Broadly speaking, I was also entranced by the fragile, yet angry, relationships that many of the characters in the play displayed, particularly Leo and Ben. It was truly interesting to observe their completely different attitudes towards the family conflict that the play centers on, and I felt that their different approaches deftly mimicked many of the complexities of modern families. From a personal perspective, I could relate to the fact they were siblings and yet saw things so completely different, as it is a situation that I have often found myself in with my own siblings.

    As previously mentioned, I felt that the technique that was employed to move from one scene to another was something of a stroke of genius. By allowing the audience to see the sometimes concurrently occurring scenes (although in one they were often not speaking), I felt as though it helped to flesh out the unique struggles and perspectives of each individual in this family, something that is in line with the often individually understood and individually experienced struggles faced in families every day. I was also interested to note some of the similarities and differences between “After the Revolution” and “Awake and Sing”, two plays that focused intimately on the family. Although I did enjoy “After the Revolution” immensely, I could not help but feel that Odets’s play was more true to the bitterness that can arise in difficult family life, and that, consequently, his characters were more believable to me. Odets’s ending in particular stuck with me much more than did Herzog’s. For Odets, there was no happy ending, compromised or otherwise, there was no neat resolution; instead we were left wondering how Hennie could abandon her child, how her brother could have endorsed her decision, and whether or not Jacob actually did commit suicide.

  4. This past Thursday night, I had the opportunity to see my first DC production, which was “After the Revolution” by Amy Herzog. The story takes place in 1999 and is about a young woman named Emma Joseph who one day learns from her father, that her grandfather was blacklisted by the US for espionage. Upon hearing the news, Emma falls into a spiraling depression fed only by her disappointment and feeling of betrayal. Up until that point, Emma had idealized her grandfather as being a man of honor who was wrongfully blacklisted in a time of national crisis. As the play progresses, Emma and her family must face the lies, secrets, and moral dilemmas that were concealed for over 40 years.

    “After the Revolution,” spoke to me in several different ways–it talked about family; it talked about passion; and most importantly, it talked about progress. In looking at the family dynamics, I focused more on the relationship between Emma, her father Ben, and her grandmother Vera.

    Starting with Vera and then looking at Ben and finally Emma, you can see a progression of ideologies. With Vera, the audience experiences her unwavering refusal to view grandpa Joe’s espionage activities as criminal acts. Unlike Vera, however, Ben’s perception of his father was more susceptible to change. Throughout the play, the audience sees Ben struggling to sympathize with Emma while trying to hold on to the admiration he had for his father. Yet, in the last scene, Vera tells Emma that her father said it was good for Emma to be critical of her grandfather; he called it “progress.” To me, this moment indicated that Ben had finally accepted the truth and embraced it. Emma, however, did not have the same reaction.

    Like her father, Emma strongly admired her grandfather–so much so that his name was the title of her fund. To her, his actions were wrong. As a result, Emma struggled with the idea of renaming the fund, but, in the last scene with Vera, Emma tells her that she is not going to rename it but that she has decided to step down from her position. She also tells Vera that she publicly acknowledged and ‘apologized’ for her grandfather’s acts because it was the right thing to do. At this point, I found myself siding with Emma more than with Vera or Ben. Even so, I thought that each family member’s convictions and passion for truth, as they saw it, was gripping and very telling.

    Truth, in and of itself, is a very tricky thing to define. What one person considers to be true may differ entirely from the next person’s. To Vera, it was true that her husband was an honorable man whose actions weren’t wrong. For Ben, it was true that his father was an honorable man, who would have only committed espionage for a good reason. In Emma’s eyes, however, it was true that espionage and lying, regardless of the reason, was a bad thing. In this respect, I think that the takeaway is that as each generation encounters their respective obstacles and hurdles, the truth of their situation will be far different from the truths of the following generations.

    • Although I did not write about it in my comment, I also thought that it was incredibly interesting to note the ideological progression through the Joseph family generations, and I am glad that you mentioned it. For me, that ideological progression is very much about our subjective perceptions of the truth, but it is also, as an extension, about the societal and political conditions that surround us, as I felt the play attempted to emphasize. Although in her time, the 1990’s, Emma may view her grandfather’s actions as inexcusable and reprehensible, I feel that it is entirely reasonable that in the 1940’s she may have sided with her grandmother, Vera, on the issue. From my perspective, Leo played an exceptionally important role in respect to this, because he stood between the two political poles and understood that there is ground there, in the middle, and that everything is not black and white. As Leo said in response to Ben’s dichotomous view of their father’s innocence: “I guess that’s the main thing we disagree about; that those are the only two options.”

  5. Theater J’s production of Amy Herzog’s “After the Revolution” was wonderful to say the least. Not only was I engaged in each of the characters and their interactions with one another, but as the plot unfolded throughout the play I felt compelled to question my own morals and ethics in an attempt to see which character I most identified with, if any at all.

    One of the core themes I felt I could identify with most, was the recurring theme of politics and revolution encapsulated in the Joseph family. From the first scene of the play the audience is informed of how intrinsic politics is to the family, from Ben’s proclamation “I am a Marxist” to Vera’s apparent disproval that her eldest stepson’s children are not carrying out the rich legacy of revolution and politics set by her late husband Joe. I found it intriguing to see a family -especially a white family- so invested in social justice. I could relate to this theme not because my family is political -because they aren’t really- but because I myself have become so consumed by a yearning for social justice since I’ve been in college; the Joseph family represented an image of a family that I plan to have in the future.

    Social Justice often comes at a price -paid by those fighting towards achieving this justice – including but not limited to having to engage in actions and behaviors that are deemed unacceptable by the dominant society. However, the great revolutionaries, Che Guvera, Fannie Lou Hammer, Malcolm X, and so on realized that doing what you have to do is part in parcel of seeing a great cause become victorious. When Emma realizes that the man she held to such high regard, her grandfather, had morals that did not necessarily match up with hers, her world practically falls apart. Now, no one can disagree that Emma is a good and morally sound person; however, I began to question her as a revolutionary. As Ben put’s it, Joe “did what he had to do” for his cause. While Joe’s actions may not have been in accordance with Emma’s beliefs, as a revolutionary Joe’s unselfish fervor to his cause must be commended. Joe’s actions as “immoral” as they may have been caused him to lose loved ones, respect, the “great political career” he was destined for, all to achieve benefits for society as a whole -including those who ostracized him- not for selfish gain.

    “After the Revolution” left me questioning the generations after the great Revolutionaries, as much as we claim to want justice and equality, how far are our current generations actually willing to go?

  6. “After the Revolution,” written by Amy Herzog and produced by Theater J, is a play about politics (on the surface). Emma Joseph, a bright, intelligent, recent law school graduate, started a fund in honor of her grandfather, who was blacklisted and not given a fair trial. His actions were considered honorable and brave. Then, she discovers that he was actually a spy for the Soviet Union and furthermore, committed perjury, which rattles her world. She feels as though everything she believes in is a lie, and struggles with the decision of whether or not to continue her fund.

    Beneath the obvious political theme, the play incorporates many other themes, including racism, feminism, and family history. However, the theme that stood out most to me is the one of relationships. In my experience, father-daughter relationships are usually strong but not deep—for example, my dad and I are close, and we can have conversations about anything inconsequential, but serious conversations make us both uncomfortable. Ben and Emma’s relationship seems much the same way. Ben was extremely nervous when approaching Emma about the book, and when they disagreed about what to do, their relationship became very strained. When Emma finally came around and went home to talk to Ben, they were both very tense and awkward, to the point of writing lists and reciting them in order to make sure they didn’t forget anything. Emma even brought up grievances from when she was a child that she never communicated to Ben. The play doesn’t continue too much past that encounter, but there is no reason to believe that their relationship didn’t recover.

    The relationship between Emma and Jess was also very interesting. Like many sisters, they are very good friends, despite being very different people. Emma is successful in the professional world, while Jess is a former addict. Emma dresses cleanly and conservatively, while Jess’ style is more relaxed and flowing. Emma’s hair is short, while Jess’ hair is long. Despite these little and big differences, they talk to each comfortable, they share their lives with each other, and they support each other. Jess is the one who finally convinces Emma to talk to Ben again, stating that it’s not fair to punish him, despite being the one to hurt him for so many years. The relationships within “After the Revolution,” I feel, were the central theme to the play.

  7. I saw “After the Revolution” performed at Theater J on Thursday night. The play focuses on a young woman, Emma Joseph, and the internal conflict she faced while learning some old family secrets.
    The character that I found most fascinating was Ben Joseph, father of Emma. Despite being a radical determined to bring intellectual honesty into political conversation, he becomes so entrenched in defending the honor of his family that he comes to represent everything he once fought against. Emma’s family is unapologetically Marxist, and she is the youngest champion of such revolutionary ideas. Her Dad, Ben Joseph, is a teacher at a local school and uses his position to teach the students about the values of socialism. “I got one!” he exclaims over voicemail to Emma as he describes a student who had a conversion in thought. Ben wants to make his students challenge the status quo and stop being “complacent.”
    When Emma learns that her grandfather was actually a Soviet spy, she (quite understandably) begins to question everything that she has stood for her whole life. She wonders about whether the Joe Joseph Fund should even exist, and is angry at her Dad from keeping this knowledge away from her. Ben responds, “You’re a Marxist, Emma, you educate. You use your platform to explain what these bastards are doing, that it’s McCarthy rearing his head, that your grandfather dared to question to powerful and he’s dead now…”
    Yet the way Ben acts within the context of his family is opposite to what he says he stands for. He does not educate, instead he hides truth from Emma and refuses to fully consider the implications of his own father’s spying behavior. He obstructs and clouds truth. While he admires his own father’s willingness to question power and authority, he is angry and hurt by Emma’s questioning of his authority. Ben’s embrace of socialism is about questioning authority and old ideas, yet he becomes complacent in his own thought and represents the very authority that Emma struggles to rally against throughout the play.

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