Thursday, May 20, 2010

"In The Wake": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG baub

Lisa Kron's "In The Wake," which is having the second half of its World Premiere at Berkeley Rep, is two and a half hours long. It is basically a soap opera with a lot of talking and hand-wringing, but is also thought-provoking and captivating. The six female actors are all well drawn (we'll talk in a moment about the one man) and Kron leaves you with a lot to ponder -- fatal attractions and the future of the world, for example.

Ellen (Heidi Shreck) seems to have everything -- job, friends, a relationship. In the theater this means she has nothing. Judy (the fabulous Deidre O'Connell) appears depressed and traumatized in Act One, but you know she'll have all the answers by Act Two. Most action occurs in the upstairs apartment living room of Ellen and Danny (Carson Elrod). Judy is staying there too, while Kayla (Andrea Frankie) and Laurie (Danielle Skraastad) live downstairs. Tessa (Miriam F. Glover) is Judy's niece.

Confused yet? Wait. Danny is Kayla's brother. Kayla and Laurie, though gay, are married and Ellen and Danny, though straight, are not. Wait another second. Ellen is actually having an affair with Amy (Emily Donahoe) and Danny, who knows and condones that affair, is the gayest straight man you've ever seen.

There is a lucky horseshoe over the door of Ellen and Danny's bedroom. It must be broken.

To embellish scene changes we see absolutely chilling news clips of the Bush years. Ellen periodically walks to the front of the stage to deliver monologues about our country's and her own blind spots -- America's insistence that things will turn out great, no matter how terribly we screw them up. This goes for war as well as relationships.

At the end of Act One Ellen says: "It's easy to see someone else's blind spot, harder to see our own."

By the end of Act Two things are worse: "I'm lost. I wanted more. Maybe this is what more looks like."

Pretty grim stuff and Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz ("That Combover Weasel") on top of it. Brrrrr.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG baub

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "In The Wake" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE and a bauble of despair. Alexander V. Nichols's lights are extra-special -- not only to light featured areas of the stage but to give emotional cues. David Korins's set is like the living room in Friends: sooner or later every character ends up on that sofa.

The BANGLE of PRAISE is for Tessa. This fourteen-year-old Kentucky-raised teenager gives a giant Hello There! to her elders' world of feigned contentment. She's the child who notices the Emperor is naked. "If you love her, why don't you marry her?" she says to Danny. Ha ha, well now, hmm.

The bauble of despair is for the character of Danny. Perhaps it is the author or director's intention to make Danny such a sit-com wimp that Ellen will have no option but to fall for another woman. If so, as GWB said: "Mission Accomplished."

"In The Wake"
Berkeley Rep, Roda Theatre
2015 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through June 27

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