Monday, June 20, 2011


Photo/Carl Skutsch
The moment we are born is the moment we start forgetting. It is our lot to walk through life unaware of what we've lost, or worse, as in the case of Stig (Paul Neibanck), who suffered brain damage and is now a wild, forever-fourteen-year-old adult, to remember our loss. In Kristin Newbom and W. David Hancock's engrossing memory play Our Lot, Stig, his two sisters Kathy (Joanna P. Adler) and Alice (Mariann Mayberry), have gathered to fumigate their childhood home and throw away the boxed and labeled memories hoarded by their late step-father-slash-uncle, Karl. As with many memory-driven plays, the homefront is steeped in a miasma of misplaced miseries, which is why the youngest, Kathy, is keeping up her steely all-business front, wanting nothing more than to be done with the past. On the other hand, the selfish middle child, Alice, who "escaped" the homestead, rubs salt in old wounds by dwelling on her more rose-tinted remembrances, as desperate to save her mother's old Instamatic camera as Kathy is motivated to destroy it. These two represent the future and the present, the superego and ego, while Stig, who has never grown up and cannot control his impulses, is the group's id and its past, the boy who neither condemns the mother for leaving (Kathy) or understands (Alice), but believes that she is just around the corner, living with a second family, ready to come home and collect him. Finally, there's Kathy's wheelchair-bound boyfriend, Toby (Nathan Hinton), who provides the audience with an outsider's neutrally "know-it-all" perspective.

This may seem too carefully structured, but Our Lot wisely takes a casual approach to its intellectual design: the play's philosophy comes madly scrawled on the inside of long-sealed plastic storage bins or as quotes from each bin's celebrity subject, from John Wayne to Lennin [sic]. Save for an ill-advisedly mystical ending (which only even bothers to wrap up one small part of this wide-open character study), the play alternates between the aggressive joshing of The Amoralists or Adam Rapp and the relaxed solipsism of Annie Baker, Adam Bock, and other hyperrealists. Instead of wrapping riddles in nutshells, Newbom and Hancock lovingly unwrap memories: a container labeled Jackie O. contains what's supposedly the black box from John-John's downed plane; instead, it's the family's long-lost copy of Back to the Future, which reminds Kathy of her divorce, and, in turn, this remembered rage summons an image of their mother's "Mister Misty" fits, which culminated in her throwing the kitchen table at her husband and abandoning them. Because Our Lot has such a strong central action -- the need to clean the house before the bank repossesses it and penalizes them -- it's able to go off on these thought tangents while maintaining its momentum. (Director May Adrales deserves some credit for this; the stage may be cluttered, but the action is always neat.)

As part of Clubbed Thumb's annual Summerworks series, Our Lot is a solid entry with a talented four-person cast, particularly Adler, whose measured tightness provides the show with much of its backbone and maturity. But as a part of the entire season, Our Lot's decidedly low-key approach and wide-netted structure may not be memorable enough to leave audiences with anything more than a warm impression, for while it's terrific moment to moment, those moments are, as we've learned, what we're constantly forgetting.

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