I just caught an absorbing new drama playing off Broadway until June 19th 2016. Skillfully written by Jackob G. Hofmann and aptly directed by Jessi D. Hill, its subject is that most insistent, that most dominating of all common denominators – memory.
The finely written “A Persistent Memory” has a “connect the dots” manner of presentation – time is no longer a river, more a series of thuds and jolts – and told thru some biting scenes and solid performances which impressively enhance this unfolding drama. A contemporary story, presented non-sequentially, as a series of intriguing scenes set in different locales – from Connecticut to Uganda- straight thru, no intermission. It is almost cubist in thought and style. One vignette is more interesting than the next and the plot unfolds bit by bit, point by point, action by action, and thought by thought. Though set in the present, it’s the past that matters. Personally, I love a nonlinear story line, I relish the challenge! You keep asking yourself how these three men and three women on stage are connected to each other. What exactly is going on here? Trust me, it all comes full circle, although – SPOILER ALERT! – I cannot necessarily promise that all’s well that ends well.
Memory is so powerful, to be able to recall past moments, to recall good times and bad defines us as a species. Yet some events in our lives are so traumatic, so unfortunate and painful that our minds can actually suppress them – or can we? And perhaps we should ask – should we? Or are we like elephants – a HUGE metaphor and important plot point in “A Persistent Memory” – we never forget? How can we not, like elephants, carry past experiences thru our present and future lives? Must the past have such power over the present? So many questions. And all these issues become the crux of “A Persistent Memory.”
The story centers on David Huntington – strongly played by Drew Ledbetter – a bright, very wealthy, confident young man – and the disparate cast of characters entering his orbit. And crazy as it sounds, violins and elephants become a part of the story! David is unravelling and therein lies the rub. He’s losing memory, he’s diminishing. And he’s trying to come to grips with it all. Now this certainly is an interesting premise but my mind eventually became preoccupied with the individual supporting characters and precisely how they play into David’s demanding dilemma. Or do they? At times, it did feel like I was experiencing three plays at once. Lots to think about here, much going on.
I love the way the players in this drama move slowly and knowingly in and out on stage. At times the characters remain onstage between scenes, yet at specific points, they situate themselves on stage without being a part of the particular story line presently playing out. Alongside a serviceable set, emphasized by the strength and height of elephant tusks, this movement – or lack thereof – adds something to the whole, and the idea of the power of memory. Can you ever leave the past, or will it always define our day-to- day existence?
Most importantly, I need to mention this particular play’s support of the world’s wildlife. We all know that elephants are unfortunately and sadly, like the character of David, diminishing. These are vanishing animals. Many reason for this, poaching being at the forefront. Such majesty to these gentle giants, how can we let them become extinct? The audience is urged to help the cause thru various organizations, such as “The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust”, “African Wildlife Foundation”, and the “World Wildlife Fund.” On your way out of the play, please – I urge you to pick up the available materials on the table right outside the Beckett Theater, this is valuable information as to what we, as citizens of the world, can do to help.
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By: Joanne Theodorou