Nov 12, 2010

The Dread Aughts

I StageGraded Lisa Kron's In the Wake as well as previewing it for Time Out, so I was kind of rooting for it as well as dreading it when I finally saw it this week. I found myself instead intensely with it, almost 100 percent of the way--just beautiful, beautiful writing, exquisitely directed and acted. Maybe I felt it so strongly because, like the show's well-meaning but cross-purposed characters, I also happened to go through my own huge personal and professional upheavals throughout the aughts, meanwhile participating in as many painful political arguments as I avoided, and I too somehow felt a weird synchronistic, symbiotic connection between the two. So this is the time I'm living through, I often thought--and it's quite a bit worse, and considerably weirder, than what I expected. And when will I either hit bottom or turn the corner?

I do agree with some critics who felt the air leak out of the second act; on a story level, the relationships that lead character Ellen sabotages take too much stage time to disintegrate, and the ultimate impact on her is ultimately so internal as to be almost imperceptible, even with the heroically riveting Marin Ireland acting the hell out of it. Still, I can think of few writers who could make a political argument as nitty-gritty as the penultimate one between Ellen and her wizened relief-worker friend Judy work so well, and play on so many emotional levels, because Kron has made us invest in just this kind of argument over aspiration vs. desperation, which is of course not irrelevant in the age of Obama.

In short, it's the kind of play that goes badly wrong more often than not, and gives political theater, or "theater of ideas," a bad name; that In the Wake works as well as it does feels to me, at least, like a triumph. And I can't wait to see Kron's next play.

No comments: