New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media




Tune into Radio Jersey with Lee Mrowicki every Monday through Friday from 6pm to 8pm
Broadcast on Asbury Music!

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

By Gary Wien

originally published: 07/13/2019

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

(UNION, NJ) — It’s easy to deny what you don’t see.  That’s one of several themes in Tammy Ryan’s wonderful new play The Wake, which is being presented by Premiere Stages now through July 28th.  The play, which won the 2019 Premiere Play Festival, deals with issues involving family, marital problems, nature, the environment and climate change.  In each area, it’s clear that problems are easier to overlook when you don’t see them directly.

The play involves a pair of sisters (Maggie, played by Kelley Rae O’Donnell, and Rosemary, played by Kathy McCafferty) who rent a beach house in Florida to spread the ashes of their sister Colleen who died of cancer six months earlier.  Rosemary’s husband Ed (played by Wayne Maugans) and Maggie’s partner Doyle (played by James Gushue) are with them.

Tammy Ryan turns a grim premise into a hilarious comedy, which is helped by a great cast and sharp directing from John J. Wooten, producing artistic director at Premiere Stages.

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

Maggie and Doyle arrive at the beach house first and discover a mess left from the last occupants.  They quickly sweep the floor and throw out the old food in the fridge.  

Doyle is a native of Florida and Gushue is terrific as a former convict who had been living in his truck until taken in by Maggie. He’s got a patch over one eye and a tattoo of John Lennon on one arm. He’s stocky, outspoken, and one who is truly in touch with nature.  As soon as they get to the beach house, he gives hints he thinks a major storm - possibly even a hurricane - might be on its way.  But since it’s too early in the season for hurricanes, the two hope the weekend will go fine.  



The article continues after this ad

 


To be honest, Maggie appears more worried about how her sister and her family will judge her and whether or not they’ll accept Doyle than she is of the weather.

“You’re just the latest stray I’ve brought home,” said Maggie.  “The cats have seniority.”

Outside the house Maggie sees a strange bird staring at her from the window.  Doyle tells her it is a blue heron.  He says it’s a good omen.

Maggie was not only closer to Colleen than Rosemary, but she took care of her ailing sister in the final years.  It’s clear the memorial is very important to Maggie and she has it all planned out.  In addition to bringing some beer and wine, she’s got the fridge loaded with the ingredients to make Sex on the Beach - Colleen’s favorite mixed drink.  They’ve rented a boat to spread Colleen’s ashes at sea, brought a boombox with some music, and she’s got some words for people to read.  Then people can say a few things if they want.   

Doyle advises her that they should take the boat out a few miles and make sure they pay attention.  “You don’t want to be dropping ashes in the wind and wind up wearing your sister!”

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

Colleen was a wild one.  She was famous for drinking, having sex with strangers, and living life in ways that led to her cancer.  Rosemary largely avoided her once she had children because she didn’t want them to see that lifestyle.  Since they never knew their aunt, Rosemary and Ed left the children in Orlando where they were going to Disney World and Universal Studios. This was disappointing to Maggie as she had hoped to see them, only knowing their lives from social media.

Ed is worried about the weather and upset that he cannot get a signal on his phone at the house.  Rosemary brings several bottles of wine and begins drinking as soon as she arrives.  It’s the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary, but tension between them signals something is going on.

Without the kids being there for the memorial, Maggie has second thoughts about spreading the ashes at sea.  But the lack of cell reception prevents them from cancelling the boat.

“It’s ok, we’ll take the boat out for a little tour,” said Ed.

“A three hour tour,” replies Doyle ominously.

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

Ed is an accountant for a company that deals with fracking while the environment is very important to Doyle and Maggie. Both are definitely closer to nature than Ed and Rosemary.  That point is made clear after a hilarious battle rages between Doyle and a pelican who slams into the beach house due to plastic caught on its legs.

“When did you join Greenpeace?” asks Rosemary to her sister.

“When you live down here you see what’s happening to nature,” replies Maggie.  

Many dramas use comedy to lessen the blow of the tense situations.  The Wake uses drama to intensify the comedy.  Tender scenes like when Rosemary first discovers the urn containing her sister and when she hears Maggie talk about the deaths in recent years (their parents, their sister, Maggie’s ex-husband and several cats) provide a break from the laughter and refocus the audience on the original premise of the memorial.

“I’m sorry it all fell to you,” says Rosemary.  “I’m not good at death.”

“Nobody’s good at death,” replies Maggie who realizes that Colleen was the last thing keeping her in contact with Rosemary.  With Colleen gone, Maggie worries she will lose Rosemary too.

REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere StagesThe concept of the environment and nature - and the changes that are happening to both - play a large role in The Wake.  It is not done as a political statement.  It’s just something that does not affect Ed and Rosemary’s lives, but does affects Maggie and Doyle’s.

And it’s something which soon involves all of them.

The weather turns far worse and they soon learn that a hurricane might hit the area.  Ironically, it carries the same name as their sister - Colleen.

The first act ends with everyone scrambling to leave.  Ed and Rosemary hope to get to Orlando and be with their kids.  Doyle and Maggie just want to get somewhere safe.  The storm forces everyone to change their plans and return to the beach house.

As the cable goes in and out, they see what The Weather Channel says.  Rosemary believes Jim Canatore will tell them how bad the storm will be.  Unfortunately, he’s also on the beach near the house and that's never a good sign.

“If I’m riding out a storm named after my dead sister, the first thing I’m going to do is have a beer,” says Ed.  “It’s the first thing she’d do!”

They’ll have to try surviving the storm together with board games, booze, and painful truths coming to the forefront.

Special props go out to Bethanie Wampol Watson for a beautiful set; Greg Solomon for lighting and Emily Auciello for sound - which both play a very active role.  The weather and the hurricane are both done extremely well.

The Wake is a highly entertaining and very funny comedy that will make you think. Audiences might think of family members or friends that they haven’t seen for years or failed to see before they passed on.  You might think of the environment and changes that you may have noticed yourself in recent years.  And you might think about nature and how humans have changed the landscape for many creatures.  Most of all, I left wondering how these issues became political at all. The play does a terrific job of showing how it's hard to ignore or deny things that you see or experience yourself.

Premiere Stages once again shows why it is one of the most vital theatre companies in the state.  Not only are the productions top notch, but they are almost always new works or world premiere productions.  The Wake is only around for a few weeks.  Don’t miss it!



Premiere Stages is located at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, New Jersey.  For tickets or more information visit premierestagesatkean.com.  



REVIEW: "The Wake" at Premiere Stages

ALL PHOTOS BY MIKE PETERS



Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.


For more by this author, click here




More Articles You Might Like

The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
The Simon & Garfunkel Story Comes To The Basie On January 23
Paper Mill Playhouse Presents "Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella"
Paper Mill Playhouse Presents "Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella"
Centenary Stage Company Presents Disney's  "Beauty and the Beast"
Centenary Stage Company Presents Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet" Comes To George Street Playhouse
Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet" Comes To George Street Playhouse
Cape May Stage Presents "Murder For Two: The Holiday Edition"
Cape May Stage Presents "Murder For Two: The Holiday Edition"
Dickens Performs Dickens At The Strand
Dickens Performs Dickens At The Strand


Event calendar
Saturday, Dec 14, 2019


MUSIC


Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Motor City Revue @ The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

NEW POLITICS, PLAIN WHITE T'S & THE MOWGLI'S @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 6:00pm

HOLIDAY DOO WOP VOL. II @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm


Jackie Evancho @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

DUEL OF THE DECADES: 90'S VS. Y2K @ The Wellmont Theater, Montclair - 7:00pm

GANDINI JUGGLING AND ALEXANDER WHITLEY AMERICAN PREMIERE SPRING @ Alexander Kasser Theater, Montclair - 8:00pm

Morris Choral Society Presents "Baroque Jewels and Songs of the Season" @ Morristown United Methodist Church , Morristown - 8:00pm

Imperial Brass Sounds of the season @ Grace Episcopal Church (Nyack, NY), Nyack - 3:00pm

Princeton Symphony Orchestra: Holiday POPS! @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 3:00pm and 6:00pm

The Hot Sardines @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Broadway for the Holidays: A Musical Revue @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm

Quiet Storm @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm






THEATRE


It's A Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre @ The Avenel Performing Arts Center, Avenel - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents THE GREAT TREE AND OTHER TALES BY ZONA GALE @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

It's A Wonderful Life @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Free to Be...You and Me @ Players Guild of Leonia at the Civil War Drill Hall Theatre, Leonia - 3:00pm and 7:00pm

Broadway for the Holidays: A Musical Revue @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm

Madeline’s Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 1:30pm and 3:30pm

COMEDY


Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 7:00pm


DANCE


NEW JERSEY BALLET'S NUTCRACKER WITH NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 1:00pm and 6:00pm

NUTCRACKER - AMERICAN REPERTORY BALLET @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

The Nutcracker, National Ballet Theater of Odessa @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:00pm


The Nutcracker @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 1:00pm and 4:00pm


FILM


Polar Express Pajama Party @ Brook Arts Center, Bound Brook - 6:30pm

View all events

















 


















New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.