After the Revolution at Next Theatre Company | Theater review
Amy Herzog infuses the family drama with family politics in this compelling work.
Staking out a space at the precise intersection of the personal and political, Amy Herzog’s 2010 play depicts a Northeastern Jewish family, the Josephs, that largely defines itself by its leftist politics. The show opens at a gathering to celebrate the law-school graduation of the family’s youngest activist, Emma (Christine Stulik). Her father, Ben (Mick Weber), a high-school teacher of “history and social justice,” proudly regales the room with a tale of announcing his Marxism at a PTA conference. Emma has launched a social-justice fund of her own, named for the family’s late, revered patriarch, Ben’s father, Joe, a government operative blacklisted for refusing to name names for Joe McCarthy. When the revelation comes that Joe may have in fact passed secrets to the Soviets during WWII, it’s unclear what’s worse for Emma: the potential threat to the work she’s doing under his name or the news that her father knew all along and kept it from her.
Herzog handsomely raises the stakes on the family-grievances drama, cannily commenting on the way politics shift between generations and the impossibility of perceiving the past as our forebears did their present. Warm and funny throughout, Kimberly Senior’s production features a terrific cast, including splendid turns by Mary Ann Thebus as Joe’s fiery, hard-of-hearing widow and Mike Nussbaum as a kindly donor to Emma’s fund. Stulik is a sympathetic protagonist, though she’s saddled with a too-long sequence where Emma’s pouting slows the play nearly to a stop.