“A sprinkle of coconut will always look very festive – if you have a disease.”
“Some people can just bite and chew their shame away.”
“An Elizabethan commode changed into a staircase.”
“How beastly the whips of a changing wind.”
Part of the duty, and the challenge, of reviewing is in phrasing a precise sentence which both encapsulates the show in question and communicates itself to the audience for whom the show is most suited. In that regard, Pat Kinevane’s “Forgotten” presents a very particular problem. A stream of consciousness Kabuki poem as recited by an Irish samurai geisha in the style of Jackson Pollock.
Close, and yet…
“Forgotten”, like Mr. Kinevane’s earlier work “Silent” which is being performed in rep at the Odyssey are works of intense beauty that personifies private pains to perfection.
In “Silent” that pain is the loss of a loved one.
In “Forgotten” the pain expressed is the loss of oneself.
The stage is black and bare but for small mounds of what appear to be chrysanthemum petals. In some countries of Europe these petals are symbolic of death and only to be scattered atop graves. Throughout Asia, chrysanthemums have two meanings. In some countries, such as Japan, they stand for lamentation or grief; in other countries they represent honesty.
Three characters, whose lives were briefly interwoven, are nearing the end of their days; memories, threatened by the onslaught of dementia, struggle for expression in rage or joy or guilt.
Like a Jackson Pollock, the challenge for Mr. Kinevane’s work, is for the audience to surrender into it. To drop any preconceived notions of composition and allow yourself to be swept away in the passion of the artist’s implementation is the necessary step; then from the seeming chaos the most majestic order arises with a beauty most intoxicating.
And Mr. Kinevane’s performances are intoxicants for the eye.
A significant aspect of the exquisiteness inherent in his work is Mr. Kinevane’s size. Whether in watching Jackie Gleason in old Honeymooners reruns or witnessing Julius “Dr. J” Erving soaring towards the hoop, there is something enthralling about a large man gifted with gracefulness.
“Forgotten” like “Silent” is part sonnet, part verse dance expressing the anguish all life is heir to with poetry and a defiant wit. It is fascinating to watch Mr. Kinevane take on the various personas in his piece. He does not merely don a “mask” for each character in the process, he inhabits the soul, taking their suffering as his own, and then, by doing so, extending that suffering outward to the audience making them share in it as well.
Director Jim Culleton and sound designer and composer Brian Byrne have most enhanced the performance by the understatement of their contributions. There is no heavy handedness in the application that could impose itself between Mr. Kinevane’s intimacy with the audience; rather they have enrobed the pearl with the silk of their own spinning.
And many thanks are to be given to producer Beth Hogan who first brought Mr. Kinevane from his home in Ireland to the L.A. audiences.
There are allusions to Japan and techniques drawn from kabuki theatre throughout “Forgotten”. In wondering how they connect to the performance, one may be put to mind of the line from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West”:
“Oh, East is East and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet.”
That is the most oft-quoted fragment, but it is not the full passage:
“Oh, East is East and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet.
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
At God’s great judgment seat.”
Our shared mortality shall place us all “At God’s great judgment seat” that is the lot of humanity, but Mr. Kinevane’s hauntingly beautiful show serves as a much needed reminder “Any day your feet hit the ground is a good day.”