KPBS AIRDATE: MAY 13, 1991
It’s kind of like old wine in new bottles. Or, more aptly, old Irish Whiskey re-corked.
“Remembrance” is basically a love story. But it’s definitely a contemporary one. First, because it deals with a December-December romance; love blooms in two widowers in their sixties. And second, it’s set against a stark political backdrop: Belfast, Northern Ireland.
These two contrivances allow Irish playwright Graham Reid to explore, in somewhat less detail, two sub-themes: parent-child conflict and the destructive nature of bigotry.
Some of these conceits work better than others, though the play is basically sweet and touching. The relationship between Bert, a Protestant and Theresa, a Catholic is a fragile little flower pushing through the cold, hard Irish ground. They meet in a deserted, windswept cemetery, where each has buried a son murdered in the cause.
Their grief exceeds their anger, and that allows their love to grow. But, then there’s the problem of their children, who, steeped in the national conflict, do everything in their power to destroy the budding relationship.
“Most people stay together for the sake of the children,” Bert writes in a second-act letter. “We stayed apart for the sake of the children.”
It’s nice, if a bit too pat. The man has a son; the woman has daughters. Each has one terribly angry, bitter child, and one family peacemaker. Ultimately the paramours are abandoned by their children… Entirely too much balance for my asymmetrical self.
Yet some of those mother-daughter, father-son confrontations are profound and universal; a few are contrived. But any problems are within the script. The performances are consistently wonderful, and director Andrew J. Traister has coaxed the most from his cast.
Jack Aranson plays Bert in a sadly confused, avuncular way. He’s an ex-soldier with a warm heart, a giving man who has little left for his son. Victoria Boothby is a controlled, pinched Theresa. There are no hot sparks between them, but a tentative, hand-holding connection.
All the children are fairly unlikable, especially the cruel Victor, played by William Anton with frightening anger and anguish. Robin Pearson Rose is powerful as Deirdre, Theresa’s suffering, selfish offspring. Susan Barnes does a good job with Joan, the compulsive and guilt-ridden daughter whose character is more sketched than shaded. And, as Bert’s ex-daughter-in-law Jenny, Lynne Griffin is every bit the pert, pained colleen.
As my mother always says, “They don’t make people like they used to.” Reid’s play shows the younger generation as less flexible and resilient, less able to find a pebble of joy in the rubble of their embattled backyard.
To underscore the sorrow, a mournful tune reappears –too frequently — in the musical arrangement of Nicolas Reveles. The theme seems trapped in Nick Reid’s cramped multi-set stage design. I kept waiting for some tormented character in the cemetery section to flop into the nearby armchair which was Bert’s parlor.
The set, however, perfectly represents the play: tidy but cluttered, and like the furniture, a bit over-stuffed.
For KPBS Radio, I’m Pat Launer.
©1991 Patté Productions Inc.