Review: MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN at 12th Avenue Arts

What would you do if your greatest power was also an unimaginable threat?

By: Feb. 25, 2024
Review: MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN at 12th Avenue Arts
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Review: MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN at 12th Avenue Arts
Patrick Harvey, Jon Lutyens, and Sunam Ellis in
Memoirs of a Forgotten Man at
12th Avenue Arts. Photo Credit: Annabel Clark

How far back can you remember? When you were 10? 5? Do you remember the day you were born? Probably not. That is what makes the subject of D.W. Gregory’s Memoirs of a Forgotten Man so incredible, he can. Thalia’s Umbrella’s productions of the four-person play, masterfully directed by Terry Edward Moore and housed at 12th Avenue Arts, has officially opened, and this is one you truly don’t want to miss…or forget.

Each element of this show - cast, crew, costumes, set - worked together to form a cohesive and outstanding representation of what it is like to live in times of political unrest, introducing the audience to characters living in Soviet Russia.

As the lights go up, we meet Alexei, a man with the most remarkable memory you’ve probably ever witnessed. Though this can come off as a rare and impressive gift, it also makes him a target. Alexei learns that some things are better left forgotten, especially when witnessing leverageable moments. The show expertly dances between past and present, giving us pockets of understanding in between the moments of needing to know more. 

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man features Sunam Ellis (Dr. Berezina/Madame Demidova), Patrick Harvey (Azarov/Alexei), Leslie Law (Teacher/Utkina/Mother), and Jon Lutyens (Kreplev/Vasily). An outstanding cast that compliments each other through each scene, character change, and memory test.

There is no doubt the show would not have been at the level it was at if any of the four cast members were removed. 

Sunam Ellis was the highlight of the night for me. Her ability to jump from one timeline to the next midway through a sentence kept the audience entranced. The subtle changes that clearly had much thought and care put into them helped the audience quickly differentiate which year we’ve just jumped to. It’s hard to take your eyes off of her every time she enters the stage. On top of the time jumps being expertly navigated, just like the other actors in the show, she portrays multiple characters, making clear and purposeful physical choices that ensured she completely embodied each unique character. 

Review: MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN at 12th Avenue Arts
Patrick Harvey in Memoirs of a Forgotten Man at
12th Avenue Arts. Photo Credit: Annabel Clark

The word impressive doesn’t even begin to describe Patrick Harvey’s performance. Yes, actors memorize lines, but can every actor do it like this? Not only does he flawlessly juggle Alexei’s volume of lines, he also memorizes a multitude of random words and numbers that he can recite forward and, if you ask, backward. Harvey possesses the ability to bring genuine humor into grim moments, leading us to his side to root for him the whole show. His relationships with the other characters felt thoroughly explored and purposeful, and though the character of Alexei comes off as extremely complex and misunderstood, it's clear that Harvey knows him down to the core.

Jon Lutyens’ initially stoic portrayal of the Soviet official Kreplev juxtaposed next to his boyish delivery of Alexei’s brother Vasily proves the capabilities of this actor. Kreplev is clearly motivated by an unveiled mission, and Lutyens allows us only so much information that we are on the edge of our seats, yearning for full disclosure. Lutyens takes us on a full-circle journey, and at the end, you can’t help but look back in awe at his full performance.

Of course, the show would not be complete without Leslie Law, who played a variety of crucial characters that supported the three main actors. She masterfully plays the boys’ mother who goes through grief and denial, while vigorously remaining hopeful for her children. Her portrayal of each character is so different from the last that you immediately know which persona she has on each time she enters the stage, despite minuscule costume changes.

These four actors are able to flourish in this show thanks to the playground with little equipment that is the set, designed by Scenic & Lighting Designer Roberta Russell. 

Russell leaves the downstage area open aside from a desk and a few chairs, allowing our focus to be on the actors. This production, however, is backdropped by a massive wall with many tiny compartments filled with large letters from the Russian alphabet and various objects from the character’s lives, some of which are occasionally interacted with. This can be seen as an exclusive look inside Alexei’s brain, filled with years and years of words, objects, and memories he can’t shake. Costume designer Jae Hee Him pulled the package together with costumes that couldn’t have felt more character-accurate. 

Every moment of Memoirs of a Forgotten Man felt necessary and purposeful. If you strip off the original context of the show, these themes can be applied to each of our lives, providing a valuable lesson in remembering and, on the other hand, trying to forget. Walking out of the theater you can’t help but think about how we’ve been taught that the winners get to control the narrative and rewrite history. This show tells us not to just recall that, but remember it. 

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man runs from now until March 9 at 12th Avenue Arts. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: