nytheatre.com review by Heather J. Violanti
February 17, 2010
Forgotten marks Fishamble's second appearance in New York, after last fall's The Pride of Parnell Street. With this poignant one-man show, the company proves itself once again to be the progenitor of innovative, socially engaged drama that's both lyrical and tough as nails.
Written and performed by Pat Kinevane (playwright of the surreal and searing Evangeline Elsewhere, seen at 1st Irish 2008), Forgotten tells the story of four elderly people, each one experiencing variable degrees of being "forgotten" by family and society. Patrician and seemingly prim Dora, replete with cut-glass Anglo accent, sips tea as she remembers misbegotten love affairs. Virile, embittered Flor screams in pain at being washed by unsympathetic nurses. Gustus, crippled by a stroke, recalls his strained relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile, sweet-tempered Eucharia, who goes into town every Saturday to get her face made up at the department store, wonders what death will be like.
As directed by Jim Culleton (artistic director of Fishamble), Kinevane realizes each character with stunning precision. Each person has a distinct physicality, from Dora's ramrod stiff posture, to Flor's hulking stoop, to Eucharia's tossing of her hands when making a point. Everything is held together with Kabuki imagery—an unexpected choice that could feel like false appropriation in the wrong hands, but not here. Culleton and Kinevane respect the Kabuki tradition but do not force it unto this play's world; rather it simply exists intrinsically within it. The play begins with Kinevane entering in a kimono and performing a ritualistic dance as the pre-recorded voices of each character cascade through the music. One character, stroke victim Gustus, is realized entirely through mask and hand gestures. For the Gustus scenes, Kinevane sits backwards on a chair, the mask on the back of his head, his clenched hands representing Gustus' knotted limbs.
The blending of dance, movement, and monologue is not entirely seamless. Some of the clubbing dance interludes, which seemingly juxtapose Flor's pent-up energy against his actual physical weakness, feel forced and cut away too awkwardly from the other characters' monologues that precede them. Some of the Irish pop culture references to TV shows and commercials also are lost on American audiences (although the program includes a helpful glossary). But the power of the piece—which juxtaposes each character's pain with flashes of humor and humanity—transcends all this. Forgotten is well-worth seeing for the strength of Kinevane's writing and precision of his performance, and the fluidity of Culleton's direction. It is an exemplar of the solo show form.