Amy Herzog’s “After the Revolution” feels a little bit like the great Philip Roth novels of the ’90s, each of which took on a decade of American politics—“I Married a Communist,” dealt with the 1950s, “American Pastoral” with the ’60s, and “The Human Stain” with the ’90s—and family life. But in “After the Revolution” the temporal frame is actually more complex and more interesting. The characters in the play—almost all of whom are part of the extended Joseph clan, children, grandchildren, or the spouse of the late Joe Joseph, a hero of the left who plead the fifth during the House Un-American Committee trials—look back on the politics of the 1950s, while we, the audience, are able to look back on the radical politics of the 1990s. The two come together because Emma, Joe’s granddaughter, runs the Joe Joseph Fund, whose primary purpose is to free MOVE sympathizer and former Black Panther activist Mumia Abu-Jamal. Her faith, and her family, begins to fall apart when newly declassified materials reveal that her grandfather had actually spied for the Soviets during World War II.
It’s a spectacular script and the cast, especially Ashton Heyl as Emma and Arye Gross as her equally ardent father Ben, brings this mix of intellect and emotion, family and politics, together in a way that feels painfully human, even, or perhaps especially, in the script’s many funny moments.
“After the Revolution” runs through May 17 and “4,000 Miles,” which also deals with the Joseph family, runs April 1-May 24, both at Center Stage.