If you had to turn off the radio - possibly by hurling a dinner roll or a hardback novel or whatever else came to hand - whenever President Bush's dulcet tones hit the airwaves, brace yourself. Berkeley Rep's In The Wake is underscored by Bush's presidency, from Florida to reelection to his ignominious departure from the world stage. But the story's emotional center is a family's journey from a halcyonic Thanksgiving - marred only by the cigarette-roughened antisocial tendencies of an unexpected guest - to disintegration.
Featuring football, breakups, political spats, and blind spots, In The Wake is funny and thought-provoking - where "thought-provoking" means "play discussion will hijack the entire ride home, including an interminable wait on the Bay Bridge." Ellen is a sharp cookie, but she runs her life based on the exact belief she derides the nation for - a deep certainty that the status quo will hold and she'll be buffered from a true fall. But her choices lead her - and her family - into the cavernous space between the loss of one life and the gaining of a new one.
Rhoda Theater, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. Through June 27. Tickets are $27-71 at berkeleyrep.org.