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Stay awake for ‘The Wake’

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Heidi Schreck and Deirdre O'Connell (Craig Schwartz photo)
Heidi Schreck and Deirdre O’Connell (Craig Schwartz photo)


By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

CULVER CITY, California – The Wake is a play with a lot of p’s in it:  politics, philosophy, polemics, passion, and pathos.  And enough plot for two plays.  In fact, “The Wake” is two plays.  One is the love story: boy loves girl, girl thinks she loves boy, girl loves girl, boy waits it out, girl chooses, everybody loses.  

The other story is the political one that started in 2000 with the arrival of George W. Bush.  Headlines and images adroitly projected on a proscenium arch chronicle the march to war, the belligerent rhetoric, and the disintegration of democracy (both American and Iraqi), mirrored by the anti-war marches, political tirades, and emotional disintegration of our heroine, Ellen (an earnestly passionate Heidi Schreck).

Ellen is aware that she “has it all”: a loving live-in boyfriend (a beautifully low-key Carson Elrod), his sister and her wife (Andrea Frankle and Danielle Skraastad) just two floors away, and a job she enjoys.  But still she yearns for something more… 

As she broods in periodic monologues about the “blind spot” in our lives that none of us ever foresees, she also engages in fervent discussions with her cynical, disillusioned friend Judy (Deirdre O’Connell), newly returned from helping out at a refugee camp in Guinea.  Judy has given up on Ellen’s world: she doesn’t vote, doesn’t follow current events, doesn’t participate.  In fact, she spends most of her time out on Ellen’s fire escape, smoking and avoiding the chaotic discussions going on inside the apartment. 

 Contrary to what you might assume, The Wake has nothing to do with Irish funerals or narrative by James Joyce.  It refers to the path we make and the upheaval and debris we leave behind us as we maneuver our way through life.  It’s a perfect title for this provocative, overly long-winded journey. 

Lisa Kron, who wrote this play, is a founding member of the Obie Award-winning theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers and is the author of the much-acclaimed and Tony-nominated play “Well”.  She currently teaches playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. 

Leigh Silverman, who directed Kron’s play Well on Broadway, also directs The Wake during its world premiere run here in Los Angeles and for its upcoming run at New York’s Public Theater.  Silverman manages to keep the audience’s attention through the very long introspective speeches—but just barely.  At 2 ½ hours, the play is way too long and could really use a judicious wielding of scissors.  Especially in the first act, which takes so long to get into gear that you almost lose hope—and interest. 

The production qualities are first-rate, however.  David Korins has designed a fully functional East Village apartment, Alexander V. Nichols has organized the lighting and projection design superbly, and  Cricket S. Myers has done her usual expert job on sound. 

This play is not for those who are uncomfortable contemplating their own navel, but for those who are, and who have the patience to stick with it, The Wake provides much food for thought.  And a lot of debris. 

The Wake will continue at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. through April 18th.  Call (213) 628-2772 for tickets.

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Drama critic Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World.

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Fury over Goldstone report reflects Jewish community disillusionment with one-sided United Nations

November 24, 2009 1 comment

By Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO–The tensions around the Goldstone Report ( Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict) have died down for the moment.  But hard feelings still remain in the community regarding the report and the resulting resolution in Congress.  Congressman Filner clearly communicated his feelings and his thinking around the resolution.  He has “mishpachah” in Israel with whom he consulted.  His response to SDJW questions were fair and well thought out.   And may be factually based.  But politics is – especially geopolitical – are based on perception.

The Jewish community reaction to the Goldstone Report may not be so much about the actual information in the report, but the visceral feeling that the United Nations seems fixated on the Middle East, and in particular, the Arab-Israeli, or Palestinian-Israel conflict.

Back on October 2, 2006, as Kofi Annan’s term as the Secretary General of the United Nations was coming to a close, Human Rights Watch reflected on the tasks ahead for his successor.  While praising Annan’s dedication to human rights and the creation of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Human Rights Watch openly criticized the HRC. “The Human Rights Council has so far stumbled because of its relative fixation on Israel, while failing to take concrete steps to address other serious human rights situations as well. It has yet to show that it is willing to take firm, collective action against intransigent governments engaged in systemic rights violations.”  The article on its website goes on to say that “The incoming secretary-general must work to ensure that the Human Rights Council is both more credible and more effective than its predecessor.”

One of the giants in the world of Human Rights monitoring, Felice Gaer, severely criticized the Goldstone Report.  Her career in the human rights community has included membership on the Council on Foreign Relations, serving as chair of the steering committee for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as a member of the Carter Center’s International Human Rights Council since 1994.  As reported in the New Jersey Jewish News, Gaer called the report “a biased mandate by a biased group of people.”  The biased group of people is the HRC.

Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post noted after the HRC’s first year that “Genocide in Sudan, child slavery and religious persecution in China, mass repression in Zimbabwe and Burma, state-sponsored murder in Syria and Russia — and, for that matter, suicide bombings by Arab terrorist movements — will not receive systematic attention from the world body charged with monitoring human rights. That is reserved only for Israel, a democratic country that has been guilty of human rights violations but also has been under sustained assault from terrorists and governments openly committed to its extinction.”  In that first year, Israel and Israel alone was the only government criticized by name – and to the tune of 11 resolutions.

Freedom House, one of the preeminent “peace and democracy” institutions since 1941, in its 2009 Worst of the Worst report, which cites  the World’s Most Repressive Societies, lists Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

While Israel is imperfect, clearly, other nations and hot spots around the world deserve far greater attention from the HRC.  Only once a track record of tackling ongoing, regimented, government sponsored human rights violations in the areas around the world, will the Jewish community will feel that a Goldstone Report maybe even handed and fair and maybe justified.

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Rotto is a freelance writer based in San Diego