Memories of a Forgotten Man-Thalia’s Umbrella’s production is NOT to be forgotten nor missed

The Persistence of Memory

Salvatore Dali visualized this concept with clocks melting into distortion. The playwright D.W. Gregory explores, with complexity, how memory can serve as well as destroy in Memoirs of a Forgotten Man. (Yes, that’s what the poster reads if you squint.) This highly relevant play was directed by Thalia’s Umbrella Artistic Director, Terry Edward Moore and opened last weekend at 12th Ave Arts.

A journalist, Alexei (Patrick Harvey) has the unique blessing/curse of having total recall going as far back as his own birth. Kreplev (Jon Lutyens) plays a KGB/CIA/Knesset type investigator for a recently revolutionized but unspecified country. (with a dash of Soviet authority)

The investigator, Kreplev, questions Dr. Berezina (Sunam Ellis) who spent years researching Alexei’s phenomenal mind. Kreplev finds Alexei dangerous as his total recall violates the propagandized re-creation of national history.

In the process, family history and events are revealed in flashbacks and flawless character transitions as the four actors—including Leslie Law as mother/boss/teacher—smoothly hop from one role to the other utilizing minimal costume changes.

Aside from the engaging story and modulated pacing that builds and quiets with symphonic momentum, the acting ensemble is one of the finest we’ve seen on Seattle stages in years.

We defy anyone to take their eyes from Mx. Ellis’s as she hunts for the true reason she is possibly under arrest. Her stressed intensity, strength trumping fear, and unwavering focus command us to join her struggle.

Mx. Lutyens, who also doubles as Alexei’s older brother totally remaking himself with little more than a pair of glasses, both terrifies and captivates as we sense there is something deeper going on than official inquiry.

Mx. Harvey is first presented as a confident showman (one of the few times the cliché question “How did you memorize all those lines” is actually appropriate) and presents in the rest of the play the unguarded simplicity and comfort of never having to question “what is truth.”

Part St. Joan (of Arc) and part Pillsbury Dough-boy, Harvey seems like someone you’d kill time with waiting for the bus, but wafts of deep thinking and profound observation lift him above the banal. Mx. Law fills a majority of peripheral roles, again with the seemingly simple snap of fingers to metamorphose.

Terry Moore’s invisible-to-us guiding hand builds rises and descents, keeps secrets unforeshadowed, and keeps us on the edge of our seat without once looking at the time—a rarity for us. The star-turning performances are blended into an ensemble whole without ego or “applause moments.” The depth of soul and emotional freedom of his quartet can only have communicated so cohesively through his collaboratively generous style.

For any Seattle actor, this is a Master Class in acting. Theatrical power does not require volume, or indeed even words—the silences here are one of the strongest spices. The connection to each other and audience succeeds in the way only live theatre can. And raw emotion is artfully balanced by the mind, the physical instrument, and actors’ souls.

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man
cannot be recommended highly enough. It will have you reflecting on your own perceived memories and their questionable reliability, the survival skill of doing a “rewrite,” all the while images of Navalny will flash in your backdrop.

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man. Thalia’s Umbrella. 12th Ave Arts. 1620-12th Ave, Seattle, 98122 (Capitol Hill-Pike-Pine Corridor) Thur-Sat 7:30 pm. Sun 2 pm. Til Mar. 9. Special Mon. Mar. 4, 7:30 performance.


Parking is difficult. Take the light rail to Capitol Hill stop, walk to 12th and Pine.

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