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.
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)
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 Her hearing problems and outdated stereotypes (lesbians = victims of abuse) could make her a caricature, easy to brush off.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.
* * *
4) Engaging and Tightly-Written
A 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.|
|Nancy 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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)