by Lynn on May 20, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont. until May 22, 2022.

Written by Emma Haché

Directed by Ash Knight

Choreography by Nicola Pantin

Set and costumes by Jackie Chau

Lighting by Arun Srinivasan

Sound and composition by Marissa Orjalo

Projection design by Denyse Karn

Cast: Ma-Anne Dionisio

Andrew Moodie

Reese Cowley

A man known only as HE (Andrew Moodie) has been in a horrific accident causing a catastrophic head injury. He remembers almost nothing of the accident or who he is or his world, but he does remember that he loves his wife, SHE (Ma-Anne Dionisio), fiercely. HE spends his time in a hospital, where he is cared for. SHE visits him every day. SHE gives him memory exercises showing him pictures of things. For all of them HE says it’s a chicken, except the picture of the Queen. He gets that one correct. There is no improvement there.

HE and SHE profess their love for each other. SHE says they have a daughter Adele (or is it Alice—both names are given). Adele is a dancer. HE can’t remember Adele, Alice or that he has a daughter.

What SHE wants more than anything is for HE to forget how much he loves her and thus allow her to go and make her life without him. But HE doesn’t forget and gradually as Emma Haché’s play evolves it’s clear that it’s SHE who can’t let go of being needed by HE or so she thinks. She vows to leave for a few days and not visit. HE says that’s good. SHE returns after a few days and it’s obvious HE didn’t notice her absence and SHE did. There is a glimmer that HE might remember something of their former life, but just a glimmer.

Director Ash Knight’s production references bits, pieces and shards of memory in many ways. Jackie Chau’s set is composed of various separate pieces set on the floor. Some slope, others are high enough to sit on. Each can represent the broken bits of HE’S memory. On either end of Jackie Chau’s set are screens on which are projected images, leaves, etc. The audience sits on either side of this playing area. I am not sure of the point of this configuration because, at times, with the projections going on and the extended narration (Reese Cowley), it proves a distraction if both HE and SHE are also there, in various poses of hugging or embracing.

Also problematic is that both Ma-Anne Dionisio as SHE and Andrew Moodie as HE very often speak so quietly to each other, it’s hard to hear them. And if they turn away to the other side of the audience, then hearing what they are saying is almost impossible. I can appreciate intimate conversation, but it’s also important to remember that an audience is there, trying to hang onto every word. Speak up please a bit so we can hear you! As SHE Ma-Anne Dionisio is earnest and committed. Andrew Moodie as HE has moments of absolute stillness when HE is lost in his absent memory, and when he is reminded of the accident, he is horrified. This plays out often, but it doesn’t mean that HE has recall.

Ash Knight has added the character of the Narrator and Adele/Alice played by Reece Cowley. Cowley narrates a poem about dead leaves at the beginning that symbolizes the death of the relationship/memory/a former life, etc. But the placement of this poem comes right after the sound of the horrific crash, without explanation, until much later in the play. Whether this is the placement in the play of the playwright, Emma Haché or not, it seems a bit awkward.

We see how graceful Adele/Alice is when she dances Nicola Pantin’s choreography. But again, I don’t see the point of this character when the essence of Lesson in Forgetting is that HE can’t remember anything about his life at all without prompts from SHE.

I can appreciate the care that Ash Night has taken with his direction in trying to create such a delicate production of such a delicate play. I fear that with the added character and perhaps the projections, it is all a bit fussy and weighed down the production.

Produced by Pleiades Theatre

Plays until: May 22, 2022.

I saw it, May 18, 2022.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

Leave a Comment