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"In the Wake" Review-The Comrades present Lisa Kron's play at The Greenhouse Theater Center

By Debra Davy

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Lisa Kron’s play “In the Wake”, 2010, is currently in production by The Comrades at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, through August 27, 2017. Tautly directed by Alex Mallory, “In the Wake” features 7 fine actors- 6 of whom are women- portraying closely linked lives during a slice of time beginning with the first election of GWB, and encompassing “9/11” and that President’s second term. The garrulous heroine, Ellen, played with a relentless political correctness by Rose Sengenberger exclaims early on in a vast understatement, “Wow- I talk a lot”. This is the last insightful remark she utters as she dominates the play and leads the cast in endlessly dissecting the ongoing political events as well as providing a running commentary on the state of her sex/love life while constantly screwing up her relationships and lamenting the same.

Rose Sengenberger and Alison Plott

Indeed, the play centers on this character; she exhaustingly admits to having “a blind spot”, but the problem is she never “sees” it. If it can’t be seen, how can it be overcome? (“Out, damned spot”…) And that’s just it. The play is long, the sputtering minefield of words repetitive, the resolution nonexistent. This reviewer was bemused throughout, both by Ellen’s ceaseless harangue, and by the ability of the other characters to give serious credence to it all, yet I acknowledge that the overall point was actually well-made: if Ellen’s friends and lovers couldn’t bear to participate further in her unending trolling, how would it be to live such a life?

Rose Sengenberger and Mike Newquist

The author succeeds in giving us an autobiographical examination that yields interpersonal failure at every turn; Ellen turns everybody off; she knows she’s doing it, but cannot stop. Kron also endows the ambitious script with wry humor. We come to know the personal stories of these people who embody a political era- and we empathize with them, mainly because they are so well defined, albeit they are as devoted to their own eccentricities as they are to each other.

Samantha Newcomb and Adrienne Matzen

The play could’ve been cut by at least half an hour, however, and still yielded up its revelations. Similarly, it could’ve- and should’ve- been presented without Ellen and her lover, Amy, stripping to their skivvies to embrace. Like all the other “real” events/relationships that Ellen (as Kron) mines under the microscope of soliloquy, this relationship is fraught, over idealized, and ultimately disrupted, causing real pain and consternation for both women. And yes, the heroine’s heart was proclaimed to have been stirred- yet the truth about all Ellen’s “affairs” is they are all talk and no action. Having said that, the issues that are raised are well framed; Kron parses different gradations of political awareness/opinions, and the stance taken by the different characters, as well as the enthusiasm and humor are refreshing.

Rose Sengenberger, Adrienne Matzen and Erin O'Brien

Mike Newquist does a fine job playing the long-suffering Danny who finally has enough. Alison Plott is remarkable portraying the lovable and loving Amy; her verbal seduction scene was splendid, and all her emotions real and accessible. Kelli Walker gave a many- layered and subtle performance as the strangely out-of-it Judy who never ceases to surprise us with her depths and who delivers a sincere and incisive come-uppance to Ellen at the end. Adreienne Matzen and Erin O’Brien as married partners Kayla and Laurie were consistent, strong, and although almost always seen together, kept their identities separate- no mean feat. Samantha Newcomb in a smaller part as Tessa gave a shiningly clear performance of small-town perplexity. Finally, congrats to Sengenberger for her unending credibility and intensity in this ruthlessly self-centered role.

Kelli Walker and Rose Sengenberger

Kudos to the Creative Team for a nicely lit, comfortably costumed and believable set with cleverly selected visuals: Nicholas Coso, Lighting Designer; G. Max Maxin IV, Projections Designer; Alycia Matz, Costume Designer; Rachel Rauscher, Scenic Designer


For information and tickets, go to the comrades website



All photos by Paul Goyette

Published on Jul 31, 2017

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