According to program notes by playwright Megan Condit “…And a wake-up” is “military slang used for counting down the full days and last day until a person transitions away from a tour assignment. Usually one involving great stress and personal risk.”
Before “And a Wake-Up” begins at the New School for Drama Theater as part of Fringe Fest NYC we hear via voice over, John Williams (Parker Dixon) writing a letter home to his fiancée Rachael Sloan (Alexandria Wailes) thanking her for the care package that all the other guys appreciated and his looking forward to being with her 24/7 in their bedroom. It’s a bittersweet beginning considering what happens next.
A silent scene of his homecoming – in a flag draped coffin. We see nothing of his supposedly angst filled last days. When the scene switches to the Sloane dining room of we simultaneously see a bloodied and scarred John Williams arise from the dead.
Director Bruce Faulk uses this “simultaneous” device often which splits the focus of what you are supposed to focus on.
The play actually is more about the very Catholic dysfunctional Sloan family than the readjustment that John has to make upon returning home. He appears to Mrs. Sloan (Lee Roy Rogers) – a submissive wife in a loveless marriage who puts the make of just about everyone in pants including the Mayor (Lawrence Arancio). Her abusive husband Charles (Christopher Hurt) who manufactures “Sloan Body Armor” is the man in charge and he doesn’t care much for Rachael’s new polite husband-to-be David (Kyle Knauf) who works for him. Rachel didn’t waste much time finding another guy. So much for that strong bond of love between her and John.
Then John appears to them all in a bar where he is beat up by Mr. Sloan for attacking his wife. Are you still with me? Ace reporter Molly (Romy Nordinger) in dominatrix leather mode witnesses all this and reports it on TV accusing Mr. Sloan of attacking a national war hero. John becomes a reluctant celebrity. Mr. Sloan tries to become part of his growing fame to build up his business.
There are demonstrations, many uneaten cold dinners and a reverend (Jacob Hoffman) who suggests to Rachel to “pray harder” to adjust to her dilemma.
The playwright, with her “gimmick” of John returning dead, seems to be saying that it is better off to be killed in action, to be dead and buried than coming home an amputee with vacant stares or full of horrible memories that result in the distancing from loved ones who do not understand you anymore.
The “gimmick” just distracts from her well intentioned message. John’s adjustment is examined superficially with the emphasis on the family Sloan in a surrealistic package.
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