Amy Herzog’s play about ideals and family politics is ideally suited for Gamm Theatre and Tony Estrella.
As artistic director and director of this thinking-person’s play, Estrella loves to challenge our thoughts and beliefs.
“After the Revolution” is the perfect fit, and the perfect play to open Gamm’s 28th season.
Three generations of a leftist family wrestle with a revelation, discovering that their deceased, beloved grandfather wasn’t the person they thought he was.
The story centers around Emma, together with her family to celebrate her graduation from graduate school, and now proudly running a non-profit fund to assist those alleged to be falsely accused.
When a book is due to be published about her grandfather’s past, Emma’s father must reveal the secret to her.
Why didn’t he tell her before? Why did other members of the family know? How can she continue her work, knowing what she now knows?
While taking place in 1999, the play takes us back to the McCarthy era, reminding us vividly of the Red Scare, the Marxist movement in the United States and the continuing battle for social justice that forced many liberal Americans to challenge their beliefs.
Diana Buirski, who was so good in Gamm’s “The Glass Menagerie,” is outstanding as Emma, showing the audience the pain and agony she is going through. She becomes obsessed with the secret, losing her partner (Ben Garcia), alienating her grandmother (Wendy Overly) and becoming estranged from her father (Jim O’Brien).
Politics and philosophy are bandied about and values are questioned. It all comes down to Emma’s decision on what is the right thing to do…with her father, her family, her partner, her grandmother…and her foundation.
There is some comic relief from the grandmother who hears only what she wants to hear. It is a pivotal role, bringing out subtle prejudices, rationalizing actions, and still caring for family members while not agreeing with them. Overly is a pro, and makes the role work.
Casey Seymour Kim walks the tightrope as Emma’s mother, trying desperately to keep lines of communication open between father and daughter.
Karen Carpenter as Emma’s sister, Chuck Reifler as her uncle and Sam Babbitt as her major contributor to the fund round out an outstanding cast.
The play has a number of scenes that change quickly from apartments in New York and Boston. The scenes are flashed on the back wall to help the audience follow the transitions easier.
As the play moves toward its conclusion, I wondered if the situation could be resolved. People are left scarred, and not all attitudes will change, but Herzog has come up with a good, believable conclusion.
Gamm has another success with this thought-provoking, contemporary look at political beliefs that are still prevalent today.
“After the Revolution” is at the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket through Oct. 14. Call 723-4266 for reservations. Tickets are $36 and $40.