Sunday, May 11, 2014

After the Revolution—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland

Ghosts from the Past
This true drama is written by Amy Herzog and directed by Tamara Fisch.  It is playing at their site at 602 NE Prescott St. (please park in the King school lot, 2 blocks North of the theatre on 6th).  The show runs through June 1st.  For more information, go to or call 503-488-5822.

I’m sure most people know by now about the Blacklisting that happened during the 50’s and of a demon name Senator Joe McCarthy.  It is said he wanted to identify and root out all Communists from American Society.  (He must have missed the part in our Constitution about our Freedoms as Americans.)

Nevertheless, a lot of people ran scared and ratted on others by “naming names.”  And many employers fired employees of theirs that were found to be “unfriendly” by this committee.  Otherwise, they, too, might be thought to be a little “pink.”  Two very good films about this embarrassing era in our history are The Front about blacklisted entertainers and Good Night and Good Luck about Edward R. Murrow and his struggle to expose this fraud.

This story is about Joe Joseph, who was called before this committee and labeled a Communist, as well as being a spy for the Soviets during the 40’s.  One must remember that during the 40’s, Russia was our ally.  And, during our Great Depression of the 30’s, the Communists were one of the few organizations that defended laborers and were friendly toward people of color.  So, some liberals had a tendency to lean in that direction back then.

Joe died during the late 90’s and now his family is attempting to carry on their lives.  A fund had been set up by him to defend those who it appeared were being railroaded by the legal system, possibly just because of their beliefs and/or color of skin.  Joe’s sons, Luke (Duffey Epstein), a Marxist and teacher, and his brother, Leo (John Steinkamp), have reached a crisis in their lives.  It seems a book is soon to come out about those Americans that were spies for foreign governments during the War and, of course, Joe Joseph is mentioned.

Luke’s daughter, Emma (Jennifer Rowe), is the head of the Foundation and is dismayed at some of the conclusions and secrets that she was unaware of concerning her grandfather and his activities.  It will affect her relations with Miguel (Luke Bartholomew), her boyfriend, and a new benefactor for the Foundation, Morty (Jonas D. Israel).  Also, she has a sister, Jess (Anne Sorce), who has been in and out of Rehab and was aware of certain facts about their family that Emma was not.

Her step-mother, Mel (Lorraine Bahr) is sympathetic to Emma’s dilemma.  And her grandmother, Vera (Vana O’Brien), is not what one would call a “rah-rah American” but has an honesty that Emma finds refreshing in a strange way.  Family dynamics can be cruel.  At the conclusion of this adventure, there is no definitive answer but, at least, doors have been opened for discussion.  I can’t tell you too much about the proceedings, as much of the plot needs to be discovered by the viewer.  But, take my word for it, the story is riveting and thought-provoking.

The ensemble for this show is first-rate!  Not a weak performance in sight.  It is always good to see such stalwarts as Epstein and O’Brien still wowing the crowds.  And Rowe, as the pivotal character, is super.  The Director, Fisch, has modulated her cast to use the pauses, overlaps in dialogue, and explosive emotions to the story’s (and viewer’s) benefit.  And the scene changes were done so quickly you almost didn’t know they had happened and yet it was always clear as to where they were.

I would recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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