Pleiades Theatre presents Taliesin McEnaney and John Van Burek’s translation of Emma Haché’s Lesson in Forgetting. In this poetic play, a man (Andrew Moodie) and woman (Ma-Anne Dionisio) inhabit an interpretive, liminal space, unable to re-connect. A traumatic brain injury from a car crash has destroyed his memory of their marriage. All that’s left is his love for her, adrift and out of context. The burden of their history is her’s alone.
The suggested real world setting is a care facility in which she frequently visits him. He has no long term memory, so their conversations are repetitive and cyclical. She reminds him, again and again, of his former identity, but it never takes. While there are glimmers of recognition, she is constantly frustrated. And he, in turn, becomes scared by her outbursts, retreating further.
Both Moodie and Dionisio are charismatic performers, but the production allows them little opportunity to find much honesty or nuance. Director Ash Knight and choreographer Nicola Pantin fixate on elegant gestures that feel purposeful, but are too self-consciously performative.
A third figure (Reese Cowley) shares the stage with them, sometimes portraying their daughter, sometimes functioning as narrator. Though a graceful and expressive performer, she feels entirely unnecessary here. The daughter’s physical presence is cumbersome. And as narrator, her text offers no insight or counterpoint, she simply describes what the other actors are doing.
The design elements are striking. Jackie Chau’s set is minimalist—a few plain grey platforms and suspended screens. Denyse Karn fills these with projected imagery of cascading autumn leaves and rippling water. Arun Srinivasan lighting, the least overtly symbolic design element, provides subtle ambiance.
This story’s premise is undeniably haunting. I recognize the ache at its core, though I don’t feel it. Perhaps it is better conveyed in the play’s original language. Here, though, the overly lyrical text and handsome, stylized production feel too contrived to resonate.