Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Forget Me Not
Also see Richard's review of The Whipping Man
Director/Producer Philip Boehm brings Tom Holloway's 2013 play to the stage, with most of the entrancing earmarks of any Upstream show: strange transitions and perspectives; the rumbling threat of primitive danger; and a world where everyday rituals are transformed into sacraments. It's no small gift.
But it's also the only Upstream show I ever saw where half the audience were wiping tears from their eyes when the lights came up. This time, it's personal.
And one disagrees with the audience only very carefully. So get out your hankies: I can recommend Forget Me Not to just about anyone ... anyone but me. I was just hoping for something even weirder, and less sentimental.
But why treat the cup as if it were half-empty? If it's half sentiment instead of half madness, it can still be a full-on hit, right?
Gerry (Jerry Vogel) is the 'Upstream' half: the danger, the confusion, and the transformation. And he holds up his end of the bargain admirably. Taken from his unwed mother as a baby, Gerry languished in an orphanage in Australia. And the experience didn't exactly turn him into a well-rounded individual later in life.
Donna Weinsting is touching but wary as his aunt: strangely tentative in her reunion scenes. But it gradually develops that Gerry's experiencing two different realities. And (in the usual bizarre way of this production company) we don't yet know why.
Maggie Conroy is terrific as Gerry's daughter, an Aussie girl who's nearly lost all patience with her alcoholic dad. She seems like a young Toni Collette, with a forceful nature and a will of iron.
Terry Meddows, another powerhouse actor, steps in to coax the very troubled father into facing whatever's really bothering him, before we can even grasp it ourselves. His nebbishy persistence goads Gerry into even more rebellion.
But all four of the actors have this wonderful sense of astonishment, or dread, or dismay, at how their characters can't quite come together.
The whole story hinges on a government program to re-locate post-war "orphans" to Australia. Of course, I would have liked to hear more about that from the actors on stage in dramatic form, rather than in lengthy program notes. But I think a lot of other people in the audience felt they got their money's worth, based on the widespread, tearful reaction.
Through February 16, 2014, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand (a block south of the Fox Theatre). For more information visit www.upstreamtheater.org. During the run, Sunday evening shows will be shifted around two times.
Onstage (in order of appearance)
* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the US.
** Denotes Candidate for Equity membership
*** Denotes Member, United Scenic Artists Local 829