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Arts and Entertainment

Theater Reviews: The Wake in Culver City, Lascivious Something [Inside] the Ford

The Wake photo 5.jpg
Heidi Schreck and Emily Donahoe in The Wake at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre | Photo: Craig Schwartz
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by Lyle Zimskind for LAist

Two different plays that opened their world premiere runs in Los Angeles this past weekend both begin with the news that a Republican is about to become president. In Sheila Callaghan's Lascivious Something a young Greek woman tells her American expatriate husband that the radio is reporting Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 election; Lisa Kron ’s The Wake starts 20 years later, with the denizens of a New York City apartment transfixed by TV coverage of the post-election recount shenanigans that were about to culminate in G.W. Bush’s White House ascendancy. In each of these works the impending political transition functions as a kind of metaphor for the correction of a long-standing wrong in their protagonists’ lives, an emergence into brightness after years of aimless, dark confusion.

Just kidding, of course. Actually, Kron and Callaghan both use these respective elections to signal that the lives of their lead characters are about to be unsettled, gratifying their audiences’ shared conviction that the rightward pendulum swings in living memory meant dark times ahead for everybody. In The Wake politics remains central to the play’s events, as the earnestly activist Ellen (played by Heidi Schreck)’s committed social righteousness blinds her to the distress that her blithe personal self-absorption causes her loved ones throughout the W presidential era. The Age of Reagan’s onset in Lascivious Something, by contrast, is significant mainly for the angst it causes August (Silas Weir Mitchell), now a Greek island innkeeper and winemaker with a much younger wife (Olivia Henry), whose idyllic existence is challenged by the surprise arrival of an old flame (Alina Phelan) from his ‘60s California radical days.