BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Heart-Breaking FORGET ME NOT
Forget Me Not by playwright Tom Holloway explores a story torn from the tragic practice of "child migration" that was utilized during times of war and unrest in Great Britain since the 1600s. This is a poignant, touching and, ultimately, heart-breaking tale of one family's journey to reconnect. The acting and direction are simply superb, and you'd have to be a pretty tough person not to be moved by it. Upstream Theater's intimate production will linger in your memory long after the lights come up.
Mary was a working single mother in the 1940's who arrived to pick up her young son one evening, only to find that he had been sent away without her knowledge or consent. Unable to find answers, she hopes that he's been received by a family that can provide a better life for him. Her son Jerry (originally named George) was brought to Australia, told his mother was dead, and spent years toiling on a work farm, enduring abuse and neglect. With the establishment of the Child Migrant Trust, a way was set up so that some of these families could be reunited.
Jerry Vogel gives a tremendous performance as Jerry/George. He brings a sense of genuine damaged goods to his portrayal that makes you feel sympathetic toward him, despite his propensity for drink and violent rages. Maggie Conroy is also quite good as his grown daughter, who's endured her own fair share of abuse at her father's hands. She helps make the connection to Mark (Terry Meddows, in a very fine performance), a member of the Trust, who tries his best to track down Jerry's mother. Donna Weinsting rounds out the cast in excellent fashion as Jerry/George's mother. One can only imagine the pain she has dealt with all these years.
Philip Boehm's direction is exceptional. There's not a gesture or pause that doesn't ring true with any of these performers. Michael Heil's scenic design is simple on the surface, but packed with the emotional jolt of a backdrop portrait of four children carrying suitcases walking toward some unknown destination. Steve Carmichael's lighting is dramatic and focused, and Christopher Limber's sound design is extremely effective. Bonnie Kruger's costumes bring a nice, compact sense of character to each of the portrayals.
You'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't head out immediately to see this emotionally charged production. Forget Me Not continues through February 16, 2014 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.