After the Wake

In January we gave director Laurie Rae Waugh five stars for The Bare Truth. Does her latest show deserve the same high rating?

By Andrew Andrews

Ken Coughlin, Michael Bordwell, Adam Pine, Amy Losi, Janel Koloski and Brytanie Holbrook-Tafty drink brandy in the living room. Original photo by Laurie Rae Waugh.

After a failed bout with cancer, country girl Carol (Janel Koloski) just buried her mother and hosted the mourners in the deteriorating family home. Only mom’s boyfriend Harry (Ken Coughlin) remains, and he’s eager to leave before Carol’s prodigal sister Katherine (Brytanie Holbrook-Tafty) arrives late from the big city.

A lot has changed since Katherine’s last visit two years ago, and she won’t be pleased to learn that mom left the house to Harry under the condition that Carol and her boyfriend Tom (Michael Bordwell) are allowed to remain to raise their expected baby for at least the next ten years.

Ask any real estate agent to list the three most important things about a house, and they’ll instantly say, “location, location and location.”

If there’s a similar rule for theatre, the answer has got to be “the script, the script and the script.” Unfortunately, unlike Waugh’s laugh-out-loud prior production, playwright Shirley Beth Newbury’s piece fell sadly short of our expectations.

Granted, it’s a drama, not a comedy, but After the Wake is void of witty dialogue and thick with inconsistencies. Despite its perfectly-fine premise, the level of tension goes from zero to ten to zero, with too much time at the low end and not enough build-up to justify the highs. And although we can’t pin the blame on any one role, the casting for this production feels a bit too “off” to make up for the writing’s shortcomings.

Here’s hoping that Waugh & Company will return to comedy—or at least find a stronger script—for their next offering at the A.T.A.


Andrew Andrews attended After the Wake at American Theatre of Actors Sargent Theater in Manhattan on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.