By Amy Herzog
Directed by Kimberly Senior
At Next Theatre, Evanston
Family drama deals with politics as three generations collide over a family secret.
When young Emma Joseph (Christine Stulik) celebrates her graduation from law school, her Marxist family tradition gets another strong advocate. Her father Ben (Mick Weber) and her uncle Leo (Phil Ridarelli) congratulate her brave commencement speech extolling Marxist sentiments.
Emma now runs a foundation named after her Marxist grandfather who was persecuted by the McCarthy Committee in the 1950’s. She appears to be a devoted leftist bent on helping those oppressed by the government. She hires her leftist boyfriend Miguel (Marvin Quijada) (also an attorney) to help right unjust causes.
We see the dynamic of family relationships as three generations emerge with different political and social beliefs. Ben is an open Marxist apologist while Emma is both an American patriot and a leftist. We see the generational conflicts with Ben and her grandmother Vera (MaryAnn Thebus). The common binding thread here is the Marxist beliefs shared by all.
But when a new book reveals the shocking truth that Emma’s grandfather was really a spy for the Soviets while working for the OSS during World War II, Emma’s world starts to crumble. She is devastated by her father’s lying to her by not telling her the truth about her grandfather. Honor, truth, and family trust all come into question by Emma.
Playwright Amy Herzog tells the story through Emma’s point of view. We see that she now questions her family, her beliefs, and her purpose in life. This quite promising play hints at a major confrontation between Ben and Emma but the play fizzles in the key scenes wherein the two collide. We see that ultimately Emma’s belief system is weak enough that news of her grandfather’s espionage shatters her life purpose. Old timer Morty (Mike Nussbaum) tries to explain the times and the attitudes of the 1940’s that may have influenced her grandfather. But Emma’s sense of truth will not allow such rationalization.
The acting was superb especially from Christine Stulik as Emma with terrific supporting work by the ageless Mike Nussbaum and MaryAnn Thebus. See this well written work and decide for yourself if Emma’s reaction to the family secret is valid or is she over reacting to old news? Generation values that differ is worthy of exploration by playwrights and Amy Herzog deftly outlines the role of old-time lefts in today’s world.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 10, 2012
For more info checkout the After The Revolution page at theatreinchicago.com
At Next Theatre, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL, call 847-475-1875, www.nexttheatre.org, tickets $25 – $40, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission,through May 13, 2012