What’s the statute of limitations on hanging chad jokes and Florida recount rants? Coming in right around the 10-year mark, Lisa Kron’s meandering new drama In the Wake (now playing at Off Broadway’s Public Theater) is probably pushing it. (Though the play’s Election eve opening does slightly offset the staleness of its Bush-era setting — political satisfaction is so au courant.) Kron has written a highly charged political work centered on Ellen (reason to be pretty’s Marin Ireland), a freelance writer in New York City so angered by current events that even a few minutes of watching CNN sends her into a just-try-to-get-a-word-in-edgewise outburst. But Kron has also written a complex love story, again centering on Ellen, who lives with her teacher boyfriend Danny (Michael Chernus) yet falls desperately in love with lesbian filmmaker Amy (Jenny Bacon).
Ellen and Amy’s story emerges as the more compelling: Their initial meeting/unlikely seduction — after talking about strip malls and tax codes, they move onto such topics as drawing, negative space, Jane Jacobs, architecture, intelligent design, art, religion, sex — is beautifully twisty, the way the best four-hour conversations are, and ever so clumsy. We want to see more of how their relationship plays out and how it manages to coexist with Ellen and Danny’s life. Yes, coexist. Even though Ellen meets Amy in Boston for their too-brief, filled-with-passion-and-tears encounters, Danny still deserves the prize for most understanding BF in the world.
Thankfully, Kron (Well, 2.5 Minute Ride) employs her signature talk-to-the-audience technique with Ellen, otherwise the woman would come off as an intolerably selfish windbag. And she devises a number of other compelling characters — most notably, a taciturn international aid worker named Judy (Circle Mirror Transformation’s Deirdre O’Connell) — to knock Ellen off her soapbox. But ultimately what Kron has created are two separate plays. And she hasn’t really finished either one — let alone integrated them together. C+
(Tickets: publictheater.org or 212-967-7555)