“After The Revolution” Opens!

Four previews in the books, four talk-backs, four late night production meetings, four extended rehearsal sessions during the day; all the the advancements and learning moments that make working on a play such a dynamic, affirming collaboration… That is, when the right team is assembled, and the chemistry is well-balanced; all the elements are in place to fine-tune small production details; more performance adjustments. Yes, that familiar process of sharing a production with an audience, listening to feed-back, making and taking notes–all of that worked its magic. So that last night–opening night–at the theater, everything was in place for a dynamite performance, and a rapturous response from a packed audience. The morning had begun with a great feature article in The Washington Post Backstage columnn; interviews with director Eleanor Holdridge, and our lead actress, Megan Anderson.

Nancy Robinette and Megan Anderson in "After The Revolution" by Amy Herzog (photo by Stan Barouh)

Nancy Robinette and Megan Anderson in “After The Revolution” by Amy Herzog (photo by Stan Barouh)

It was a sweltering day in the city. It was another 9/11. And there was tension swirling about, but we were a unified community meeting the moment; a unified Council, and DCJCC board and staff, and theater community all gathered to toast the new season; to wish each other a good new year.

Here are my words of welcome just before the opening night curtain:

On the anniversary of 9/11, we are full of feeling and hope
And care for our country
For each other
For everything that’s happening 6000 Miles away.

We are about to embark on a Brave New Season
As we share in the program, The History Wars will be with us
This season. Battle lines between generations, between genders,
Between political, religious, and cultural camps will be sharply drawn.
And our dramas will be seeking resolution; rapprochement; or at the very least, a shedding of light — Even on a night such as this
When the electrical grid is being challenged as never before.

There is strain on the grid. But there is generosity in the heart.
And in this house. And in this art which we share with you tonight.
And so we gather, summoning our very best angels
(and saluting them as well)
to remember our history
remember those who aren’t here
and gather our courage for the journey ahead.

19 thoughts on ““After The Revolution” Opens!

  1. An absolutely entrancing performance by an all-around stellar ensemble of a play that spans three generations, each struggling to understand the values and circumstances of the other and that explores how those values are ultimately transmitted and transformed across the generations. The vehicle for the story may be one-time alliance of America and the Soviet Union in fighting the Nazis, the appeal of communism to the American Left, the ensuing Red Scare and McCarthyism, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the individual motives and conflicts the play explores are timeless and found in today’s headlines from Jonathan Pollard and Edward Snowden to growing income inequality and intervention in Syria.

  2. Although Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution is set in 1999, there are many elements covered in the play that are pertinent to society today. An underlying theme is the power and legacy of communism, which mirrors the many discussions regarding government structures, which are ongoing throughout the international community. Other themes include feminism and the voices of women, racism, and the continuously evolving family dynamics that so many people face today.
    What spoke to me most was the underlying idea of having a passion for something, whether it is a cause, an object, or an idea. Herzog’s message is conveyed through multiple characters but particularly Emma Joseph, a main character who is forced to reevaluate her desire for change in light of new information that could ruin her image. As a young lawyer with both nerve and heart, Emma must choose between what her family believes and what she knows she must do. Emma remains steadfast in her desire to make a difference, as she believes people deserve fair trials and justice. In her stand for justice, Emma has created a foundation in memory of her grandfather, who the government labeled as a societal outcast due to his support of Communism. However, once information is released regarding her grandfather’s past, Emma must reevaluate what her foundation stands for. Emma remains true to her fight, as she realizes that no matter what speculations surround her grandfather’s life, her fight for justice for those who have been marginalized should not be affected.
    During the discussion that followed the performance, I had the opportunity to ask the cast about what they felt was the most important theme of the production. Although I found the need for passion to be a strong message, Carlos Saldaña, who played the role of Miguel, answered that he felt the production focused more on reconciling sin. James Slaughter, who played the role of Morty, added that the production also looked at atonement, as many of the characters were seeking forgiveness from others. From this discussion I realized that having a passion can also lead to great responsibility and also many disagreements. Emma’s passion for justice led her to admire her grandfather. However, his passions led to extreme actions and an actual loss of admiration from his granddaughter. Emma’s true struggle was to learn how to forgive, as she had to forgive her grandfather for his actions and also forgive her father for keeping Emma’s grandfather’s past a secret from her.

    • Casey, I really like what you mention about passion in your post, specifically that having a passion can “lead to great responsibility.” I would agree with this idea. This notion has led me to think of the responsibilities that may contradict one’s passions. For example, it seemed that Emma’s grandfather had a passion for communism and the Soviet Union, however as a citizen, or at least an inhabitant of the United States, he has a responsibility to his country. In addition, Emma’s father has passions for communism, his father’s actions of espionage for the Soviet Union, as well as honoring his father’s name, but he also had a responsibility to be honest with his daughter. It is interesting how sometimes our passions can hinder our responsibilities. In these cases, it is an interesting conundrum as to which we should be loyal to: our passions or our responsibilities. You bring up a very good point with your blog.

    • Hi, Casey! I also agree that most characters throughout the play are seeking reconciliation and forgiveness from others through various methods. For example, Emma’s dad is seen frequently leaving Emma voice messages so Emma can forgive him and reunite with the family again. Miguel and Emma’s stepmother also ask Emma to reconsider her actions through talking to her directly and over the phone. In the memorable scene where Emma and her father exchanges lists of things they want to say to each other, they seek for each other’s forgiveness as well. Finally, near the end of the play, Emma asks for Morty and many other supporters’ forgiveness by holding a public speech and giving them the option of having their endowment returned. Through seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, characters in the play have turned their anger and frustration into peace and eventually acceptance of the situation. This change of attitude helps them to move on with their lives.

  3. 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.

  4. Being someone that is highly passionate about building healthy and functional relationships, I had a hard time separating that part of myself from the plot and concerns of After the Revolution. Before I elaborate on this, however, I was intrigued by the backstory of American communism that was woven into the play’s script. I have spent significant time researching the fall of Eastern Europe to communism following World War II, and with that understanding, I was able to make a lot of sense in the grandfather’s decisions to join with the Communist Party for the Party often provided safety and security in a very unstable world. In this sense, I felt I related more to the grandfather and grandmother than I did to Emma as the main character.
    With regard to relationships though, it was distressing for me to watch this play unfold. I felt that the conflicts experienced by the characters were largely miscommunicated and unresolved, as even the resolution conversations that took place addressed only the surface level problems and neglected the root cause of a character’s frustration. When Emma communicated to her dad that she felt hurt by the various things on her list, she addressed certain surface level problems—for example, that she felt hurt that he did not tell her about the grandfather’s spying sooner. Her father is then only able to respond to that specific hurt.
    What I would have liked to see in that conversation is for Emma to say to her dad what hurt was caused to her by not finding out sooner—maybe it caused her to feel neglected, or distrusted, or unloved. Without the depth of this type of conversation, the hurt experienced by the two characters remains unresolved and a source of bitterness. These broken relationships came to define the play for me, and in my head, I spent a large portion of the play evaluating how best to heal each relationship. While this is something I certainly enjoy thinking through, and though I thought the play was certainly well acted and scripted, I would not say that I enjoyed the play in the traditional sense, for it was somewhat emotionally taxing to watch the destructive ways in which the characters interacted with each other.

    • Hey Madison,
      I completely about the difficulties of watching the dilemma between the Joseph family members unfold. At the same time, there were some reassuring moments in the play– like Mel’s call with Emma telling her she loved her regardless of the new rift. While the play did not end with a full reconciliation and, in fact, the distrust uncovered by the dilemma may continue to be a chronic issue…I have to hope that the play ended with a “seed of hope” between father and daughter.
      At the same time, some of the breaking and conflict in the relationships may be necessary to form a stronger, more balanced relationship between the family members. It is also a mark of Emma establishing her independence and re-discovering her identity. So, while the family may have future issues certainly and watching an issue that could have been avoided had the family been more open or less biased unfold was certainly distressing (especially with Vera’s dismissal of Emma’s conclusion at the end), the optimist in me hopes that eventually stronger ties between family members will result from the rift.

  5. I left Theater J unsettled, but it was a productive feeling. While I feel the characters in Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution were well developed, it was ultimately the interactions between these characters that made me feel uneasy. As someone who values the relationships I hold with other people, it was, at times, off-putting to watch Emma shun the important people in her life due to an easily solvable problem. Now I’m not saying I am the best at maintaining a relationship with a person (in fact I have probably acted like Emma in plenty of situations), but it was pretty evident that the majority of the relationships in Emma’s life needed a little mending. For the majority of the play, everywhere she went she got into some sort of scuffle or argument with an important person in her life. The relationships she held with others were constantly a stressor making her decision on how to approach her problem much more difficult to make. Yet, while these rocky relationships impacted the personal life of Emma, she was still primarily at fault for not confronting them. She would not answer the phone when her dad called. She would not let others speak, often butting in, trying to get them to “listen to her.” And even her relationship with cigarettes was a problematic and non-confronted issue, hiding and shaming her casual habit at every opportunity available. While it was difficult to watch Emma not confront the problems she faced with the closest relationships in her life, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. Knowing my personal difficulties with confrontation, the unraveling of Emma’s troubled relationships with everyone close to her is what left me with this feeling. But it was productive because not every relationship in life is supposed to be a walk down the yellow-brick road, in fact, one of the most resonant lines in the play is when Vera, the step-grandmother, is talking with Emma and says “Well. Every relationship in life has some sadness in it, right? That’s life.” Yes, it uneasy for us confront our problems head on and yes, it is quite impossible to hold people close to you without sadness or arguments, but After the Revolution makes the clear point that after all the trials and tribulations, it is going to be ok and everyone close to you will surround you in the end.

  6. Reading After the Revolution and seeing the play of After the Revolution were two very different experiences for me. While reading, I had a lot of sympathy for Emma. It was very easy to be on her side and feel empathetic towards her character. You could see how her world could come crashing down so hard after being confronted with a surprise about her family history. So when I watched the play I was very surprised by my feelings toward the character. The way the other characters in the story came to life allowed a broader view of the whole situation. It was easier to see the way that Emma should have been able to see past the fact that her grandfather lied in his trial and continue to focus on the way that people whose political views do not fall in line with the American standard can suffer harsher sentencing and unfair trails for crimes they do or do not commit.
    Another theme that was important was the idea that everybody in your life will hurt you at some point. Whether it is intentional or not does not matter; they will bring you pain. The important thing is to figure out who is worth putting up with the pain for and who isn’t. Carlos Saldaña, the actor who played Miguel, discussed this idea after the show. This theme could be seen in Miguel’s relationship with Emma, as well as in Morty’s contribution to Emma’s fund. Morty said that he was glad he was never called to testify in court because he was sure he would have given up the names of his friends. He decided to donate his money to Emma’s fund because he was remorseful of this fact. He was disappointed in himself for turning his back on friends that could have used his help in order to save his own skin.

  7. Throughout After the Revolution I attempted to connect with Emma, but it was hard for me because I have never felt the sense of betrayal she was feeling. I also had a hard time understanding why she had such strong feelings against her grandfather’s past. I do not know much about the history of the communist party in America or about Russian spies during WWII. In fact, I found myself connecting with other characters, such as Miguel, questioning why there even were Russian spies in the U.S. considering they were our allies. I also identified with Leo’s children, who did not care that their grandfather was spy. One explanation for this is that I have never built something as important as Emma’s fund on the premise that my great-grandfather was unjustly persecuted, when he wasn’t.
    During the show, I felt as though Emma was being overly dramatic, so during our discussion when Megan said she initially felt that way too, I felt relived. It was interesting to hear that Megan had to find a way to connect with Emma on an emotional level in order to avoid feeling that Emma was pouting and whining after she found out the truth. My take away from that is for future plays I will try harder to understand the main character before I see the show in order to create some compassion for their problems. As a hopeful lawyer, this is a skill I need to improve in order to better serve my clients. Understanding why people feel the way they do about their problems is key to connecting with them and aiding them in finding a solution.
    The part of the play I connect to the most was when Emma and Jess talked on the porch outside of their dad’s house. My sister is one of the most important people in my life and I thought that Megan and Elizabeth did a great job creating that magical connection sisters have. Their ability to create the mood of unconditional love really made that moment strike a cord with me.
    Overall, my experience with After the Revolution was not what it could have been. While I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I did not come prepared with the knowledge or emotion that was required to fully appreciate it. I have learned from this experience and I look forward to gaining even more knowledge on the theater in general and other plays during the course of the semester.

  8. They say you should always open a blog post with something “eye-catching” or “shocking”; so, in keeping up with such advice by various users on the internet, I’d like to open by saying that After the Revolution reminded me of Michael Jackson. “How could a play on social issues and Marxist ideology possibly remind you of the King of Pop?”, I imagine you saying somewhat confusedly at the screen. It may be hard to remember now, with everyone gushing about the perfect, all-holy Michael Jackson, but, there was a period of time when quite a few people felt there was something inherently wrong with Michael Jackson. His name, I might go as far to say, was a bit stigmatized. Yet, in his death attitudes completely changed. Perhaps it is the urge to remember only the good qualities of those we’ve lost rather than them in their entirety and it is that same unspoken urge that, in part, leads the Joseph family to canonize Joe Joseph, Emma’s grandfather.
    To be clear, the connection between Mr. Jackson and the characters of the play is not a perfect analogy by any means. Certainly, the secrecy that the cold war era impressed upon those who lived during the era, especially those which represented an outspoken minority, affected. Even so, it is difficult for many of the character to come to terms with the notion that their memory of the man was not the man. Certainly, Emma must come to terms with this throughout the play. Not only must she come to terms with this but while doing so she has to deal with the weight of the expectations of her family and friends. They must struggle to understand her as she struggles to understand them. To an extent, many characters feel some form of betrayal, whether it be Vera’s feeling of betrayal for Emma’s conclusion on the reality of who her grandfather was; Miguel for Emma’s “selfishness” or Emma’s for the lies and, in some cases selfishness of others (as noted in her list when she expressed being upset that she hadn’t space to mourn, or to “just be sad”). After the Revolution is about much more than freedoms and relations in society, it’s about relations in units of society—more specifically, relations between family members. It is about the difficulties of accepting who others are, like Emma’s struggle with re-accepting her grandfather; but, it is also about the difficulties of accepting yourself—whether it lie in Morty’s regret of abandoning past friends, or Emma’s struggle to understand the basis of what she placed her identity on. This is part of the difficulty in life and Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution (and of course the cast members in the play) conveyed this sublimely.

    • Great insight Leah. I think your comparison of Joe Joseph to Michael Jackson is very interesting, especially when you mentioned how the perception of the person changed after death. I think this is far too common of a practice, for lack of a better word, yet it is a very interesting practice nonetheless and raises a big question of how we should view others. Should we praise them based on their big King of Pop accomplishments or should we factor in the other, less extravagant qualities they have as people? I think is an especially hard question to answer because while we would like to remember those who have passed in a very positive light, we can’t forget that they were still people, that they made mistakes and probably wronged others. I think this was the question that Emma desperately searched for answers to, causing her so much distress and internal anguish throughout the play.

  9. “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for” – Bob Marley

    This was the same quote spoken by Carlos Saldana, the actor portraying Miguel, in Amy Herzog’s play, After the Revolution, when asked by a fellow student about themes specific to his character. In fact, I believe that this theme is central to the entire play. Amy Herzog’s play, After the Revolution, dives deep into the familial dynamic, specifically the secrets that can tear a family apart. The play addresses “reconciling sin,” as Saldana put it, focusing heavily on the familial bond, whether encompassing strictly family relations or the relationships with one’s closest loved ones.

    This theme was specifically pertinent to Emma, the play’s protagonist, as she learned to cope with her grandfather’s dark secrets of illegal espionage and treason. Throughout the play, Emma learns of her grandfather’s involvement with the Soviet Union and must ultimately learn how to cope with this past family history, as well as forgive her grandfather and father for their indiscretions. As an outsider looking in, it was interesting to see how dysfunctional this family was, yet how much they loved and needed each other. One of my favorite relationships in the play was between Emma and her father. In my opinion, they have the most tumultuous relationship throughout the play, however it is easy to see how much they love each other. This relationship displays the resilience of the familial bond, bringing them back together despite Joe’s communist secret that initially separated them.

    The play touches on multiple emotions, specifically heartache, loneliness, interdependence, love, and forgiveness, ultimately uniting as one beautiful production on stage. However, one aspect of the play that confused me was Emma’s decision to resign from Executive Director of the fund, relinquishing this position to Miguel. In my opinion, I did not initially understand Emma’s reasoning to give up this position, specifically since the play highlighted Miguel as a self-appointed “modern guy.” In addition, is was mentioned in a conversation between Emma and her sister, Jess, that Miguel was a feminist:

    JESS: And he’s cool about working for you?
    EMMA: What do you mean?
    JESS: A lot of guys couldn’t handle that.
    EMMA: He’s a feminist.
    JESS: Yeah, he’s dating you, it goes without saying he’s a feminist

    Given the reference to both Emma and Miguel as feminists, as well as Miguel’s exchange with Emma stating that “it hasn’t bothered [him], for the most part, I mean I’m a modern guy,” I wasn’t sure why Emma chose to give up her position as Executive Director so that Miguel could hold this position. I have thought much about this, and I think that one the reasons for Emma’s resignation may have been because, as Emma mentioned to her father, she needed time to “just [take] a break. And [think]. And [be] doubtful. As a student at a top University, who has spent much of her time dedicated to her studies, this is a notion that I can appreciate.

    One of my favorite lines in After the Revolution came from Emma’s grandmother Vera:

    VERA: Every relationship has some sadness in it, right? That’s life.

    This is a central theme of the play, because as Emma learned and as life will show, relationships will sometimes let us down, as all people will, but it is our task in life to find those “worth suffering for.” As the Joseph family shows, as dysfunctional as familial bonds may be, it is these bonds that construct us into the people that we are to become, just as it is these bonds that we have the most to rely on.

    • Khayla, I love your description of the relationship between Emma and her father. It was once of the relationships that I could personally connect with the most, even though it was so tumultuous. I enjoyed the humor that Amy Herzog incorporated in the conversations between Emma and Joe [editor’s correction: you mean “Ben”], as it showed a relationship between a father and a daughter that truly had depth. It was a relationship that could be stretched and stressed, but it was not something that would break. The production also included contrasting relationships, like Emma’s break up with Miguel and Emma’s inability to agree with her grandmother. Overall, it was soothing to see a relationship that was actually able to be mended in the end. So much of society today is about gossip and arguments that I truly enjoyed the connection and love that emerged in the end.

    • Khayla, I thought what you brought up about Emma and Miguel’s “feminism” was really interesting, especially about Emma stepping down from her position at the Joe Joseph fund. What you said here: “…she needed time to “just [take] a break. And [think]. And [be] doubtful.” brought out in me a little feminist side that I do not normally acknowledge. Is this something we as women have learned to do in our society–take a step back, and be doubtful? I guess I just wonder what it is in our DNA as women that encourages this spirit, and if this is something inherent in men also? I am not so convinced that men experience this feeling/desire in the same way as women. Definitely something I would want to think more about, thank you for bringing this up!

  10. In the play “After the Revolution” by Amy Herzog, the protagonist Emma tries to balance her conscience of seeking justice with personal relationships. Discovering that her Grandfather is actually a spy during the war instead of a hero, Emma is willing to risk her job as the foundation founder, reputation, family and love life for the truth. Her boyfriend Miguel, who is also a recent graduate from law school, has already sacrificed his pay to work for her for a mere $30,000 a year. Emma’s sudden change of heart about the foundation would mean that Miguel has worked for nothing. It is no surprise that the incident would cause the couple to break up. Emma’s actions also have a negative impact on her fragile family. Just as the family members reunite with Emma’s sister who recovered from her addiction, Emma’s refusal to talk or see her father for keeping the secret is once again tearing the family apart. Her father is seen weary and torn by Emma’s refusal to forgive him. Most importantly, what about Mumia Abu-Jamal? The man who Emma’s foundation is supporting for? If Emma discontinues the foundation, he may never see the justice of his unfair trial. As Morty reminds Emma “it (discovering that grandfather being a spy) is not a reason to let down Mumia, to let down all the people you promised to help.“ If we use a cost benefit analysis to evaluate the situation, we would see that it is wise for Emma to publically admit the wrongdoings of her grandfather and discontinue the foundation. There are simply too many costs directly associated with her actions. But on the other hand, the very essence of the Foundation was based on the unfair prosecution of her Communist grandfather in the 1950s. Even though Emma has only seen photographs of his grandfather, his “heroic” actions and beliefs has become a significant part of her life and family. Now that Emma’s whole image of her grandfather has been shattered, she has a hard time piecing together her values and beliefs. She feels that she can only justify herself and her family by admitting the wrongs of her grandfather.

    Throughout the play, I cannot help but admire Emma’s great sense of justice and courage of keeping true to her conscience despite the high stakes involved. The play also raises a question of how we should judge an action if the action itself is good even though the premise of the action is not? For example, the main goal of doing charity for some large corporates is not helping those in need of help, but to promote the public image of the company and to legally evade taxes. Does that make these corporates insincere? But at the same time, one must admit that the money donated by corporates is helpful for those in need. Does the heart matter more than the actions?

    • Amie,
      Your comment made me realize a subtle yet brilliant parallel Amy Herzog creates in the work. You allude to the fact that the purpose of Emma’s fund is to raise money for the defense fund of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Panther revolutionary charged with the murder of a police officer. Abu-Jamal’s supporters, who wrestled with ideological and ethical issues themselves, claimed he had been subject to an unfair trail due to his political leanings. This led the also ideologically and ethically torn Emma to believe Mumia Abu-Jamal had been persecuted for his beliefs, just like her Communist grandfather whose legacy Emma must now courageously come to terms with. Thanks for alluding to such a great parallel that went unnoticed for me until I read your post!

  11. Amy Herzog’s AFTER THE REVOLUTION does not lack conflict and contrast across the span of three generations of the Joseph family: brother contra brother, boyfriend contra girlfriend, sister contra sister, and most notably father contra daughter. Contradiction is even cleverly embodied in symbolic stage design. A distant, menacing communist red curtain drips of blood across the stage amongst a homey and tidy living room, kitchen, bedroom, and small café. These contradictions embattle the Joseph family and their coming to terms with their leftist ideals in the face of the impending revelation that grandpa Joseph, a blazing progressive himself, was a Soviet spy.

    It is clear that the Joseph family is heavily shaped and transformed by social and political forces. Nevertheless, what I found most surprising from the performance is the rationale and internal conflict of the very recognizable head of the family, Ben Joseph, played by Peter Birkenhead. Ben’s almost preposterous Marxist ideology is clear from the opening lines of the play. He passionately critiques the social ills of the time with indignation and beams with pride when speaking of his efforts to indoctrinate his students and his spares with the school’s PTA. Such a display of fervor and dedication to Marxist mantra remains fresh in the mind of the audience throughout the unraveling of the plot, especially when it starts to becomes apparent that the life of the laudable fund established by the equally fervent and political active daughter, Emma Joseph, falls into serious jeopardy.

    A confrontation between father Ben and daughter Emma was inevitable and imminent. The father’s withholding of the crucial spying information about grandpa Joseph from his idealistic daughter primed the impending confrontation to be a riveting climax that brought noble intentions, a sobering historical reality, and familial conflicts to a tumultuous yet satisfying resolution. However, I found the confrontation significantly underwhelming, tame, and inconclusive. After a drawn out and odd process of finally getting the two family members together and alone, both father and daughter pulled out a list of grievances they wanted to address, many of them, though comical, beside the salient issue of the fund. The passion and activism that had characterized prior political and family discussions, the creation of the fund in the first place, and the very identity of the Joseph family through three generations, was surprisingly absent in the confrontation that brought these resonant themes to a resolution.
    Abstracting from my subjective feelings regarding the scene, much can be said about the intended effect of such a climax. Perhaps this was the most realistic way to internalize and ground the ideological political fantasies and the noble intentions of both the father and daughter in the sobering reality that surrounded the family. It was a way to realistically realign one’s moral compass and come to terms with the political and historical forces that shaped the Joseph family without the theatrics of unrealistic political grandeur. Expectations of an impassioned confrontation between father and daughter that are instead met with genuine and apolitical reflections onstage evoke the same type of reflection in the hearts and especially the minds of the audience.

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