THE BASICS: Amy Herzog’s politico-domestic drama, which debuted in 2010, is having its WNY premiere courtesy of the Jewish Repertory Theatre, at the JCC on North Forest. Saul Elkin directs a cast of eight. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday performances continue through March 5th. REVOLUTION, with its single intermission, runs approximately 2 ¼ hours.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The brilliant, vibrant Emma Joseph, who has just graduated from Columbia Law School, is happily carrying the torch for her staunchly Marxist family. Inspired by the courage and ideals of her blacklisted grandfather, she has gone on to establish an ACLU-styled relief fund, bearing his name. But a new book is about to surface, replete with surprising information about Emma’s beloved grandpa. Information that will shatter her world, and rock the entire family.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: Playwright Herzog uses a domestic framework to air the historical and philosophical issues that are at the heart of the play. She’s intent on showing us what folly it is to approach life in a dogmatic, black-and-white fashion (ie. the Marxists, and now, our own so-called President, with his endless references “good” and “bad” people). Advocating for the Bigger Picture, Herzog becomes the champion of reality’s many shades of grey. How quintessentially Jewish!
Advocating for the Bigger Picture, Herzog becomes the champion of reality’s many shades of grey. How quintessentially Jewish!
Watching, it suddenly occurred to me that AFTER THE REVOLUTION has a very curious first cousin–Shaw’s MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION. In both plays, a very capable young woman, groomed to be a “righteous warrior”, is shocked and disillusioned to find that a close, revered family member is not the paragon of virtue she had supposed. And, having so little knowledge of the real world, and having as yet developed so little empathy for their fellow travelers, these young women find this really more than they can bear.
Bonnie Jean Taylor, an actress of considerable skill, was a very good choice for the role of Emma. Yet somehow, when her world gets shattered, Taylor/Emma’s heartbreak never comes across as strongly as it should. And for that very reason, I was not moved as much as I could have been, and wanted to be.
The whole cast is really very good. Although David Marciniak’s teddy bear-like qualities do not serve him all that well as Ben, Emma’s firm and fervently Marxist dad. Lisa Ludwig has a nice little role as Mel, Ben’s supportive second wife. Her telephone dialogue toward the end of the play is one of its few really touching moments. I also took a shine to Tina Rausa as the gaunt and crispy Grandma Vera—a character apparently based upon Herzog’s own Grandma Leepee.
Steve Vaughan and Tom Makar, usually members of the creative team only, get a little time onstage in REVOLUTION, and acquit themselves nicely. Anne Roaldi Boucher and Adam Rath also do good work in support.
The direction by Saul Elkin is solid. The set consists of only a few sticks of furniture, mounted too far downstage (for overall optimal viewing) on a big clunky turntable. The latter was clearly unnecessary, and proved to be merely a distraction.
IN SUM: This thoughtful piece of theater by Amy Herzog has been given a very respectable staging at the JRT. I have my issues, yes, but the play itself is strong enough to have you discussing it your way home…
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!