“In the Wake” Explores Issues of Politics, Sexuality and Family

BY Brianna Headsten
A&E Editor

 

An awkward holiday gathering, an exploring of one’s sexuality and beliefs, powerfully charged political debate and a soul-crushing breakup may sound like the plot of a soap opera, but it’s the turn of events in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s lastest production, “In the Wake.”

 

Written by Lisa Kron and directed by Leigh Silverman, “In the Wake” takes place during the Bush administration and touches upon the questioned election of 2000, as well the events of both September 11th and Hurricane Katrina.

 

These events don’t overcome the primary focus of the play, but help to fuel fierce political discussions and inspire the introspection of life-long core beliefs.

 

Ellen, the confident-to-a-fault protagonist (played by Heidi Schreck), is certain about her views on love and life due in part to the fact that she’s never had her heart broken. Striving to better herself, she pushes the boundaries of her own familiarity though relatable and endearing, and gives off an air of self-righteousness.

 

She is in the midst of a successful relationship with live-in boyfriend Danny (Carson Elrod), but is suddenly re-awakened after she begins a friendship, and later romantic relationship, with Amy (Emily Donahoe).

 

The series of tragic, national events and soul-searching personal explorations shake Ellen’s beliefs and question everything she was once so sure of.

 

Her brash and awkward friend Judy (Deirdre O’Connell), a social worker who does aid work globally, comes to visit for Thanksgiving. However, she isn’t immediately accepted by the rest of Ellen’s friends, particularly Kayla (Andrea Frankle) and Laurie (Danielle Skraastad), a married lesbian couple who live downstairs.

 

In the Wake: Thought provoking dialogue, brutal honesty and sharp writing make “In the Wake” a creative story of the complexity of life in America.

This odd and unlikely friendship provides Ellen with a new perspective to view her previously held beliefs on race, class and privilege.

 

Whether it’s through witty political commentary or penetrating monologues, the effortless repartee between characters perfectly showcases Kron’s incredibly sharp writing.

 

This dialogue encourages the audience to simultaneously re-examine and question their own beliefs and the way they see the world.

 

The entire cast does a phenomenal job with the delivery of their lines, channeling the persona of  each character.

 

In a play that requires an unbelievable amount of memorization and lightning fast delivery, each character approached their role with sincerity and care.

 

Schreck, with her fearless tackling of sensitive subject matter and severely personal exchanges, shines as Ellen. O’Connell, who gives another stand out performance, brings hilarity through physical comedy and witty one-liners.

 

The play is as visually stunning as it is emotionally and politically jarring, with Set Designer David Korins beautifully replicating an average urban apartment, complete with clutter and worn furniture.

 

Clips of news broadcasts from the Bush administration are interwoven and are projected upon the screen that encircles the mouth of the stage.

 

Enjoyment of the play is not limited to those who lean to the left though it probably doesn’t hurt.

 

The thought provoking dialogue and fiercely acted performances leave the audience shocked and awed by the brutal honesty and incredible execution of an astoundingly well-done production.

 “In the Wake” has multiple showings throughout the week, and ends on June 27. Students get a $10 discount on tickets, and tickets are half-price for anyone under 30.

 

For more information, visit berkeleyrep.org.