In the Wake

Lisa Kron examines the toll that politics takes on the personal.

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  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

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Photograph: Joan Marcus

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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The morning after seeing In the Wake, don't be surprised if Lisa Kron's resolute, maddening, emotionally distraught and very familiar characters are still rumbling around in your head like the aftereffects of an intense dream. Kron dissects the life of Ellen (Marin Ireland), a politically passionate, left-leaning New Yorker who's rudely awakened by the first years of the new century in an astute and challenging play that scrutinizes American history with laser-beam precision.

White, middle-class Ellen works herself into piques of fury over the political state of the country, from the contested 2000 election and post-9/11 fearmongering to the invasion of Iraq and Bush's subsequent reelection. Although she recognizes her obsessive nature, Ellen doesn't realize how charmed a life she leads until it evaporates. She has a devoted partner in Danny (Michael Chernus) and an extended family with Danny's sister Kayla (Susan Pourfar) and her wife, Laurie (Danielle Skraastad), who live downstairs. But experimental filmmaker Amy (Jenny Bacon) pulls her heart in another direction. And Ellen's withdrawn relief-worker friend, Judy (Deirdre O'Connell), brings her mixed-race niece, Tessa (Miriam F. Glover), for an uncomfortable visit.

Our protagonist can't see her own blind spot—in her politics or her personality—a point Kron repeatedly drills into her allegorical drama. Does Ellen represent the beleaguered left or the careless United States? She could be either, but in the hands of Ireland and director Leigh Silverman, she's a feverishly complex figure. Kron can slip into preachiness as she demonstrates that what's happening in the world trickles down to our relationships, but Silverman and her strong ensemble keep steadfast control of the debate.

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Public Theater. By Lisa Kron. Dir. Leigh Silverman. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.

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