Thursday, October 27, 2011
Altered History "After the Revolution"
Keeping the Light Aflame “After the Revolution”
By Skip Sheffield
Memory often distorts reality. Some good things become better than what they really were. Some bad things become worse, but as a rule we idealize the past.
“After the Revolution” is a thought-provoking play by Amy Herzog, running through Nov. 20 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
Emma Joseph is the main character in this work, impressively played by Jackie Rivera in her Caldwell debut. There is another main character we never see: Emma’s grandfather Joe, who died a year and a half before the setting in New York City in 1999.
Emma is a proud, idealist leftist who has just graduated from law school. Emma has established a legal defense in her grandfather’s memory. One of its first cases is a Black Panther Party member accused of murdering a Philadelphia policeman.
Joe Joseph was one of those Americans who became involved with the Communist Party in the USA, and as such he was summoned before the court of the House Un-American Activities Committee, headed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Like many of the accused at these hearing, Joe plead the Fifth Amendment and refused to name names of alleged Communists. Because of this he lost his politically sensitive government job.
Sen. McCarthy and his zealous prosecution of “pinkos and Commies” have been largely discredited, but not all his targets were blameless, innocent victims of right-wing politics. There were Marxists who sincerely believed the Soviet Union had a better solution, and its dictator, Joseph Stalin, was not such a bad guy.
The truth is often found between extremes. Joe Joseph’s school teacher son Ben (Gordon McConnell) knows some things about his father that are not very flattering. In fact some things old Joe did were quite disturbing and even shocking. Worse, everyone in the family except Emma knows these secrets.
“After the Revolution” examines what happens to a character whose faith in her family is betrayed; not maliciously but out of misplaced loyalty and kindness. Events unfold quickly in the 11 scenes of Act One, which sets up the big reveal detailed in the six scenes of the shorter Act Two.
While the main thrust of the play is the anger, disappointment and disillusionment of Emma, there also is humor and wry wit in the script, played to maximum effect by the polished, experienced cast. There is authentically warm banter between ultra-liberal crusader Ben Joseph and his stalwart wife Mel (Nancy Barnett). This does not come as a surprise as they are married in real life. Barnett was an administrator for many years for Florida Stage, and this is her first acting job in quite some time. You can tell she relishes it.
Tiffany-Leigh Moskow makes the most of her screwed-up, druggy Jess, younger sister to Emma.
I’m sure Harriet Oser doesn’t mind being called an “old pro” since she is, and her comic sense is impeccable as Emma’s elderly hard-of-hearing step-grandmother.
Handsome Arturo Fernandez manages to find humor in his role of Emma’s paramour Miguel, the world’s most patient, perfect boyfriend.
Howard Elfman makes the best of his small role as a former friend of and potential donor to Joe’s foundation.
Guest director Margaret M. Ledford brings a deft touch to the proceedings, and as always Tim Bennett’s set is fine. Good show, ladies and gentlemen.
Tickets are $27-$50. Call 877-245-7432 or go to www.caldwelltheatre.com.