Cohort Report: Searching for a Memory

MRT and playwright Lauren Gunderson, with artistic director Sean Daniels, have another successful play. If you have not been yet, go by Sunday matinee March 10, when the show ends. There are two actors, Miranda Barnett (Lauren) with a banjo and George Judy (PawPaw and King Lear) in a wheelchair. Simple play, right? No, very wrong!

This play tugs at you and may stir a family member memory to sit with you reflecting memories. The actors have you looking back and forward on what has meaning for you. The banjo is gentle and kind, so you may begin to sing along or shed a tear, because “music is how we hear each other”.

This playwright shares her relationship with PawPaw, who is suffering from severe dementia, no longer able to recognize her. It is frustrating and painful to regret all the time not spent with him. So, she brings forth King Lear, a literary figure to roar his madness on the heath, a tract of wasteland, as analogous to where a forgotten mind lives.

When George Judy rises PawPaw out of his wheelchair and roars into King Lear, you are stunned. This scene reflects both their emotions and behaviors of memory and madness that live inside their loss of self.

The very creative set reflects feelings on stage. It is a dazzling montage, piecing together fragments of pictures, text, and music to form the characters past and present identity. When a powerful rain “storm” arises, as a metaphor for “tempest madness”, we are again stunned by King Leer’s rageful rant, and the reality of the staged storm. A set is another character of a play if it is done well – as usual, MRT is very creative.

When Lauren exerts her passion to know PawPaw, we feel her search for his memory is lost. Occasionally he comes into the now but when he returns inside himself, she becomes sad reflecting times not shared. Then, in a fantasy with PawPaw, she is given a box filled with memories they share together. Her legacy. You will want to see her open those memories.

Lauren plays PawPaw’s favorite bluegrass music on her banjo. Barnett has a beautiful soft, lifting voice and easily engages the audience in “You Are My Sunshine” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken” which bring up memories.

The play left me wondering “who are we without the memory?”

–Gail Gauthier, Cohort member


The Heath runs February 13 – March 10, 2019.