It’s Thanksgiving Day 2000, and everyone in a certain East Village apartment are up to the task except the hostess, Ellen (Beth Thompson). She is obsessing about the results from the recent Gore vs. Bush Presidential election, which, because of Florida’s sketchy voting system, remain undecided.
Not only is Ellen obsessed, in Lisa Kron’s timely play In the Wake, now running at Profile Theatre, but she can’t quit talking about it. Her insufferable ranting casts a decisive damper on the day for her partner Danny (Chris Murray), his sister Kayla (Danielle Weathers) and her wife Laurie (Alissa Jessup) who live in the building on a different floor, and last-minute guest Judy (Jane Bement Geesman). Judy has just returned from several years working with refugees in Africa to attend her mother’s funeral.
Ellen continues undaunted through several scenes. And then she meets, and falls in love with, Amy (Jamie M. Rea). Being in love with two people is complicated. Or is this love? And how does the 2000 election relate to all this personal drama?
In the Wake is an uncomfortable play about white liberal American privilege in which the playwright tells timeless truths about human nature. It gives us the parallel universes of people and nations digging themselves into holes they can’t get out of in the name of being right. Ellen’s self-righteous narcissism can be seen as the mirror of our own collective narcissism.
Playwright Lisa Kron states her case well. True to her style, she provides some excellent sideways humor to temper Ellen’s rants–mostly from the character Laurie. If there is a problem, it’s the play’s length. A little of Ellen goes a long way. And there is a rather gratuitous sub-plot involving Judy’s teenage niece Tessa (Tamera Lyn) which comes out of nowhere, and has nothing to do with the story line.
In the Wake is directed by Josh Hecht, and is the fourth production in Profile’s double season which features the plays of Lisa Kron and Anna Deavere Smith. It runs through December 16 on the Morrison Stage at Artists Repertory Theatre.
Lisa Kron comes to Portland this weekend for a week-long playwriting residency. She will be “In Conversation” on the Morrison Stage Sunday, December 9 at 11 a.m. facilitated by Profile Artistic Director Josh Hecht. Tickets are available through www.profiletheatre.org.