On paper, we'll admit, this was not a play we were necessarily excited to see: multiple lesbian characters, one woman's struggle to choose between a man and another woman set in New York against the backdrop of the 2000 election and 9/11. But In the Wake, Berkeley Rep's last production of the season and their latest world premiere (a co-production with L.A.'s Centre Theatre Group, where the show ran last month), is a fiercely smart play about love, ambition, and American liberalism that is stirring and complicated, if maybe a touch over-written.
The play was written by Lisa Kron, one of the founding members of the Five Lesbian Brothers, and directed by Leigh Silverman, who previously directed Kron's play Well on Broadway. It centers on Ellen (recent Obie winner Heidi Schreck), a too-talkative but endearingly passionate intellectual who believes in America but can't stand watching it flounder through the terrible early aughts. The play opens as she and live-in boyfriend Danny (the very funny Carson Elrod) prepare Thanksgiving dinner in November 2000 with downstairs neighbors and best friends Kayla and Laurie (Andrea Frankle and Danielle Skraastad), all while the election results continue to be debated and disputed on CNN.