Memory by Jonathan Lichtenstein

Dates and Venue 22- 24 October 2009, 8pm | Havana Theatre, Vancouver

Director Christine Willes Cast Eric Hanson, Avery Cochrane, Tony Kuppan, Cale Joshua Bourne, Sunny Dhaliwal, Jacob Wolpert,Georgie Daburas

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Welsh playwright Jonathan Lichtenstein first performed this play in 2006 at Theatre Clwyd in North Wales under the direction of Terry Hands, and later remounted it successfully Off-Broadway and in London. This play makes its Canadian premiere through the William Davis Centre for Actors' Study at VanArts, which was founded in 1989, and is the first acting project of its 9-month diploma program.

I saw the matinee show and was surprised at the quality of the performance. Director/Instructor Christine Willes is herself a professional actress and she chose a good contemporary script whose characters blended well with the physique and personality of the actors in her class. The only negative observation I had of the actors was the fact that they were hurrying too much. I had the impression that they weren't listening to each other. This is the tendency of beginning actors: they memorize their lines well, but when it comes to fine-tuning the dialogues by putting in a variety of tones, moods and pauses, then the delivery becomes robotic and real communication is lost. But other than this, the cast did quite well and I'm certain that their subsequent projects will take them closer to the professional hue.

Tthis play is about a company of actors who rehearse a new play. It starts off with the actors bickering about script rewrites and parking meters. Eventually, they start acting out the play which has two interlocking stories: One is set in East Berlin just after the fall of the Wall, where Holocaust survivor Eva (Avery Cochrane) receives a visit from her grandson she has never met, and is forced to confront painful memories of her life during the Second World War. The second story unfolds in Bethlehem (part of the Israeli-controlled Palestinian West Bank) in 2006, as an elderly Palestinian resists the forced requisition of his house by an agent of the Israeli military.

I spoke to Christine Willes before the show, and she mentioned that this play is based on a true story about the playwright's father who was a Kindertransport child sent from Nazi Germany to London just before the outbreak of World War II. Critics, including myself, find this play emotionally powerful. In fact, at the end of the matinee show, I thought I heard a few sniffs from some teary-eyed audience members as the stage lights faded out .

This was a fine production. The set was well-designed, the light and sound cues were well-timed, and all in all, from the evening performance full houses, according to Willes, this production was well-received. Congratulations to the cast and production staff for a job well done, and I look forward to seeing their future projects.

© 2009 Ed Farolan