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Review: THE WAKE at Premiere Stages is an Outstanding Family Drama

Review: THE WAKE at Premiere Stages is an Outstanding Family Drama

Premiere Stages at Kean University is currently staging the world premiere of The Wake by Tammy Ryan through July 28. This finely crafted family drama is laced with just the right amount of humor. The show was recently selected from 659 submissions as the winner of the 2019 Premiere Play Festival. Directed by the theatre's Producing Artistic Director, John J. Wooten, the cast features four outstanding thespians.

Set in Florida, sisters Maggie and Rosemary have rented a beach house with a plan to pay their respects to their recently deceased sister, Colleen by scattering her ashes in the ocean. But tensions in the household run high from the start. Rosemary's husband, Ed and Maggie's partner, Doyle have nothing in common. There are long-standing resentments and regrets that exist between the sisters. To complicate matters, a dangerous hurricane bearing down on the region threatens their plans and safety. Could it be a coincidence that the impending storm has been named after Maggie and Rosemary's free-spirited sister, Colleen?

Review: THE WAKE at Premiere Stages is an Outstanding Family Drama

The cast includes James Gushue as Doyle, a bombastic man who has great respect for nature and was homeless before living with Maggie. Wayne Maugans has the role of Ed, a tense and impatient professional man. Kathy McCafferty plays Rosemary whose upscale lifestyle is threatened by concerns about her marriage and Ed's finances. Kelley Rae O'Donnell portrays Maggie, a compassionate and sensitive woman. These four actors bring Tammy Ryan's well-developed, interesting characters to life and master the play's spirited dialogue. Mark Zebro is the male understudy and Nicole Gable is the female understudy for the show.

Audiences will appreciate moments in the play that include Doyle explaining the presence of a blue heron to Maggie; Ed and Rosemary arriving at the beach house after leaving their teens at Universal in Orlando; Maggie explaining to Rosemary her customer service job and the environmental evils of K-Cups; Rosemary confronting Ed about their marital issues; Doyle explaining the nature of storms; the foursome engaging in board games; the arrival of the hurricane; Maggie recounting to Rosemary the details of Colleen's death; and Rosemary telling Maggie about being on the beach during the storm.

Review: THE WAKE at Premiere Stages is an Outstanding Family Drama

The Creative team has done a top job of bringing The Wake to the Union stage. They include scenic design by Bethanie Wampol Watson; costume design by Karen Lee Hart; lighting design by Greg Solomon; sound design by Emily Auciello. The Props Master is Helen Tewksbury; Production Stage Manager is Dale Smallwood; Casting Director is Carol Hanzel; Director of Audience Services is Heather Kelley; and the Literary Associate/Resident Dramaturg is Nicholas Orvis.

The Wake is a play that is very relatable. It portrays individuals that are dealing with grief, while trying to better understand themselves and their loved ones. It is a thought-provoking piece of theatre that we are sure metro area audiences will want to see.

The Wake runs through July 28 in the Bauer Boucher Theatre Center on the Kean University main campus in Union, N.J. Performances take place Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30 standard, $20 for senior citizens and Kean alumni and staff, and $15 for students and patrons with disabilities. Significant discounts for groups of eight or more apply. Theatergoers are also invited to take advantage of special talkbacks that are scheduled.

To make reservations or to order a season brochure, please call the box office at 908-737-7469 or visit Premiere Stages online at

Photo Credit: Mike Peters

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