photo: Patrick Redmond
There's not a single person who would disagree with the heart of Pat Kinevane's Forgotten: "The wasting is ferocious," and so it is. The infirmity of aging--not just physical, but mental--is the most terrible, and just the first, in a series of losses experienced as one nears the inevitability of death. However, fewer people will connect with Kinevane's theatrical expression, which inexplicably mashes together Japanese dance and Irish storytelling in what is an increasingly befuddling slog down broken memory lane. Kinevane's visual choices are too often at odds with his verbal ones: it is hard to know what to make of the thickly accented jabbering of a loin-clothed man undulating across the stage when he suddenly sits down with a cup of tea and an effeminate British accent. You know that there's been some sort of movement-influenced segue, but without the script (actually, even with the script), it's hard to process their stories.
The moments that work are those without character, as when Flor, who goes around spit-shining the stage, batters away an invisible hand, first yelling, then pleading: "I'll bath myself I dont want none of your nursey hussey hands on my Pelt." Of course, such emotional abstraction might just as easily be provoked by a montage of indignities committed against the elderly, or--better yet--by visiting a local nursing home. Less effective is his joking invitation to "join the support group for the Alzheimers Association": "What do we want? We don't know. When do we want it? What?" The horror of Alzheimers is watching familiarity drain away from a loved one--it means nothing to see these ones, none of whom we know or understand, fade away. It's even less effective when he abandons his affectations--like the way Gustus, whose paralyzing stroke Kinevane depicts by performing backward (arms butterflied in front of his back to reduce their mobility) rises to perform a Geisha-like dance. It reminds us how much of a cheat the theater can be, the illusion breaking before our eyes.
The Forgotten is roughly eighty minutes long, so between the four characters and the stylized dances, each person is given just under twenty minutes. But that's not enough to sum up eighty-plus years, not enough to empathize with, especially when their narratives are less than straightforward. (In Flor's case, they're actively delusional.) By the end, Kinevane is working so hard to connect things that his characters--let alone their emotions--are hardly visible. The clearest parts are clung to in the moment, like an old romance of Dora's and Eucharia's disdain for writing a will ("Trouble with a capital R.I.P."), but they're hardly unforgettable, which is fine, because in my case, I wouldn't be looking back fondly.