The premiere production of In the Wake was a co-production between the Kirk Douglas Theatre and Berkley Repertory Theatre in 2010. Both productions had the same cast and production team. Leigh Silverman, who had worked with Lisa Kron on previous productions, directed the performance. Overall, the productions were well received by both the public and by critics. The largest complaint critics had was the length of the play – at a little less than two hours and forty-five minutes, it started to drag on a bit. One critic stated that the “work suffers from overwriting”1, while another said that it could be “talky, because Ellen is talky, [but] much of it is good talk, and some of it is very good”.2 Another issue that was found with the piece was the fact that it can seem to have a focus more on the urban liberal ideas and beliefs. Though other opinions are voiced throughout, none are expressed as fully as Ellen’s liberal views. Many believe that this is due to the fact that Kron, a writer of multiple autobiographical or memoir plays, is speaking heavily through her main character, and thus that viewpoint is emphasized the most. Kron was able to save many audience members from feeling alienated through the engaging dialogue and by presenting some of her own views as flawed and sometimes hypocritical. Ultimately, the premiere production was widely praised and moved along to the Public Theatre in New York.
When In The Wake was produced in New York City at the Public Theatre, it kept many of the same production team and three of its cast members. Leigh Silverman was once again the director. Marin Ireland, a successful actress with an Obie and Tony Award nomination for her performance in reasons to be pretty, joined the production as Ellen. Her performance in In The Wake was noteworthy, with one critic stating that Ireland “gives a credible, fully integrated performance that never begs for affection”.3 The Public Theatre is one of the most influential Off-Broadway theatres in New York. It has a focus on producing a diverse array of works, and many of the pieces that premiered at The Public move to Broadway or other noteworthy theatres throughout the nation. Therefore, the fact that The Public Theatre sought to stage In The Wake shows the caliber of the writing and the productions at the Kirk Douglas and Berkley Repertory Theatres. An interesting choice that Silverman made while staging the performance was to keep the scenes between Ellen and Amy downstage, removed from her life with Danny that took place upstage. This showed the distance Ellen tried to keep between the relationships, though her scenes with Amy were not “ not so far away as to allow us to forget that prior and seemingly satisfying relationship”.4 This staging choice emphasized the separate yet connected dynamic between Ellen’s romantic relationships, adding to the depth and quality of this production.
San Diego Repertory Theatre staged a production of In The Wake in 2012, this time with direction by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. The production was not as highly praised as the premier productions or the production at The Public, though still had strong points. Individual monologues and smaller scenes were supposedly weak, according to critics, with ensemble scenes as the strongest points in the piece. Overall, the production provided a “thoughtful, often thrilling and often wayward ride” but “lacked a satisfactory ending”.5 Most of the critiques for this production were centered on the script itself, with most of the issues found similar to the flaws mentioned previously. However, this theatre and the people involved were not as reputable as the aforementioned theatres, which played a factor in the lessened public enthusiasm for the piece.
1McNulty, Charles. “Theater review: ‘The Wake’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.” Los Angeles Times. N.p., 29 Mar. 2011. Web.
2Reiner, Jay. “The Wake — Theater Review.” The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., 14 Oct. 2010. Web.
3 Brantley, Ben. “A Whirlwind of Words and Passions.” New York Times. N.p., 1 Nov. 2010. Web.
4 Smalec, Theresa. “In the Wake, and: The Little Foxes(review).” Theatre Journal63.3 (2011): 444-47. Web. Oct. 2011.
5 Welsh, Anne Marrie. “‘In The Wake’ Flawed, but Well-directed, Well-cast at the Rep.” San Diego Union-Tribune N.p., 20 Feb. 2012. Web.