The engine which runs “After the Revolution,” a play by Amy Herzog that will show at Theater J (the theater of Washington’s Jewish Community Center) through October 6, is a generations-old betrayal: A fledgling leftist activist from a family of Communist Jews learns that her much-honored grandfather spied for the Soviet Union during World War II and then perjured himself in front of HUAC denying it.
The revelation shatters Emma Joseph’s trust in her family and in her own righteousness, and, because she’s the founder of a legal defense fund for Mumia Abu-Jamal which she named after her grandfather, it threatens her career. As her family struggles to deal with her intense reaction to this news from the Venona decryptions and their own conflicted, complicit responses to it, further family secrets and resentments get unearthed.
Emma and her family never quite arrive at a full reckoning, but there is enough meat here to make the play well worth seeing if you have any interest in its subject matter. Be sure to have somewhere you can go afterward for drinks and arguments. (I am only half a Jew, but I had at least three opinions about this play all by myself!)