Reviewed by George Basler
Art can sometimes be a vehicle to confront painful and deeply emotional topics. Such is the case with Forget Me Not, which is being performed this weekend by Vortex, SRO Production III’s theatrical dance company.
The production, which opened last night (Oct. 19, at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City uses a combination of music, puppetry, dance and choreographed movement to shine a light on the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on those who have it and their families.
As the program notes: “Today we dance in honor of those who no longer can remember, and those that will never forget them.”
The production, co-directed by Anne Trebilcock and Ann Szymaniak, is a completely original work. The creators worked for eight months to develop the concept and rehearse a cast of 13 lead performers, and a company of 18 supporting players.
The musical score is by James Glasgow of the Strange Fangs Song Factory, who has composed for the world-touring dance company Galumpha.
As an original work, Forget Me Not deserves respect. The choreography is consistently interesting, and the score by Glasgow is a melodic and haunting one that effectively mixes somber and jazzy moments. Taken together, they create some striking moments.
Credit goes to the eight choreographers and assistant choreographers — Trebilcock, Szymaniak, Marissa Subik, Shelly Krisko, Kayla Guth, Kathryn Smith, Meagan Schuster and Morgan Carroll — for their work guiding the mostly non-professional dancers.
Trebilcock, Glasgow and Carroll also worked to create the story about three people — Gilbert, Alberta and Tony — who are suffering from Alzheimer’s and meet on a park bench.
The production’s structure is a series of 15 dances during which the characters’ memories are jogged by events around them, and, for brief moments, they recall their earlier lives. As they do, younger performers take over the roles. There is no dialogue. Their stories are told exclusively through music and contemporary dance.
As such, Forget Me Not has the feel of a silent movie in which music and facial and body movements solely communicate the story. The concept is an interesting one, although, to be honest, it’s a bit abstract. It’s enormously helpful that the creators have provided a program that spells out the action in each dance.
Certain moments stand out. One is when Gilbert thinks back to his younger days when he was an accomplished musician. The centerpiece of this memory is a well-staged dance between young Gilbert (Gil Choi) and his love interest (Caitlin Westfall) that moves from a jazzy tempo to a slow and wistful pace as the lovers meet, fall in love, but ultimately break up.
Another fine moment is the interplay between Tony (Parker Howland) and his granddaughter (Hollis Krisko) at a family dinner, when the granddaughter realizes Tony is slowly slipping away.
Finally, René Neville beautifully plays the older Alberta as she has a moment of clarity and joyfully dances across the stage as she recognizes her daughter one last time.
The production has a worthy goal. The proceeds will benefit The Memory Maker Project, a local non-profit organization that promotes art, culture and advocacy for people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss.
Forget Me Not is not solely about memory loss, Trebilcock wrote in the program. “It is also about making the memories, so we can deal with loss. That is the art of remembering.”
IF YOU GO: Forget Me Not will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today (Oct. 20) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 21) at the Goodwill Theatre’s Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46-48 Willow St., Johnson City. Tickets are $20; purchase by calling 800-838-3006 or visiting sroproductionsonline.com.
SRO/Vortex explores Alzheimer’s with affecting dance and music
Reviewed by George Basler