You Will Remember Me in Armonk: A Triumph
By Alfred D’Alessandro, (What To Do In Armonk, http://www.whattododigital.com/)
You Will Remember Me in Armonk: A Triumph: The Hudson Stage Company’s 2016-17 season opened on Friday night with the American premiere of Francois Archambault’s You Will Remember Me – a triumph of a production that reminds us how lucky Armonk is to have an equity theatre resident at Whippoorwill Hall at the North Castle Public Library.
The performances from the seasoned veterans of this five- person cast were bold and uniformly on point with a couple of star turns from John Hutton and Ella Dershowitz. Bolder still is the company’s commitment to producing at least one new play per year.
Not just revivals
The local theatre scene is rich in revivals but it takes a well-connected and pedigreed crew like Producer Denise Bessette and Olivia Sklar and Director Dan Foster to suss out new plays like this one.
In You Will Remember Me, they have found a smart, non-judgmental play about Alzheimer’s from Canada’s Governor General Award-winning playwright Francois Archambault. Archambault has penned over twenty plays and is oft praised for his yuppie bashing comedies.
In You Will Remember Me, he offers a departure from his signature satirical style but remains true to form in delivering a humorous, at times biting, take on a family drama that steers clear of melodrama and finger pointing. The Globe and Mail called it a “complex work of art; funny and moving too,” when it premiered at The Tarragon Theatre in Toronto this spring.
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is!
The story follows the redemptive journey into memory of Edouard, a highly respected professor, political figure and ladies’ man that can recite famous historical dates but can’t remember what he had for breakfast. Robbed of his short-term memory from Alzheimer’s, his life is reduced to memories of the distant past and living (and reliving) the present moment.
John Hutton, a 22-year vet of the acting company at The Denver Center, plays Edouard with erudition and self-awareness. His halting acceptance of his disease plays lightly on the irony of an intellectual realizing he is losing his mind.
Yeah, yeah, Jesus, Mohammed, Napoleon
The play has its best moments when he is paired with Berenice, played by Ella Dershowitz, a young woman raised on social media that he mistakes for a long lost family member. Through her he reinvents his past and heals old wounds. Dershowitz performs with the most entertaining nasal twang that drips with “yeah, I’m a shallow millennial – so what?” (We’ll never know if it was an affectation she adopted for the character or if that’s just the way she talks.)
Her response to Edouard’s prowess in reciting the details of the world’s great historical events is fittingly, “Yeah, yeah, Jesus, Mohammed, Napoleon. They’re done. Get over it.”
Yet, the character, as written by Archambault, displays great depth by indulging the fantasy she has engendered in Edouard that brings him the closure he seeks … and because he has Alzheimer’s – re-seeks.
Alzheimer’s pairs well with a good bottle of Pinot Noir – who knew?
Susannah Schulman Rogers, an HSC vet, plays Edouard’s daughter Isabelle, who takes over as his caregiver after her mother, played by Susan Pellegrino in her fourth role with HSC, reaches the limits of her patience and runs off with another man. Isabelle is an always pressed for time TV journalist who has her own issues with living in the present. In her best scene, she relishes “the now” and the virtues of Alzheimer’s when paired with a good Pinot Noir after a wine-filled dinner out with dad.
Which went something like this: 1) He suggests a bottle of wine. 2) They drink it and the waiter clears the table. 3) Having no short-term memory, he suggests a bottle of wine. 4) They drink it and the waiter clears the table. 5) Repeat.
“Who are you? Don’t tell me, I’ll never remember your name.”
Chris Kipniak, whose Broadway credits include Macbeth with Alan Cumming, plays Isabelle’s indulgent boyfriend Patrick who creates a new occupation for himself every time Edouard relives their introductions. “Who are you?” “Patrick.” “Patrick? You’re not Michel? I’ll never remember your name. What do you do?”
If the play has one minor flaw it is the role of Edouard’s wife, Madeleine. More of a device than a character, Susan Pellegrino does her best with the one-note role of the Alzheimer’s’ caregiver who begins the play fed up and remains more or less so throughout. We look forward to seeing her in her next role at HSC.
Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg we all have Alzhemier’s now
The play’s payoff comes when Berenice teaches Edouard, starved for the intellectual limelight that was once his, how to make a You Tube video. In it he rails about how the Internet and social media have brought about “the democratization of stupidity.” With the ready availability of information and virtual connectivity, Edouard explains in a rant that could be titled “You All Have Alzheimer’s Now”, we all live just as he does – always in the present with no memory of the moment just concluded.
Of course his video instantly goes viral.
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You Will Remember Me runs for two more weeks: Fri-Sat, 10/21-22: 8pm, Sun, 10/23: 3pm, Fir, 10/28: 8pm & Sat, 1029: 3 & 8pm. (Whippoorwill Hall, Kent Place, Armonk; www.hudsonstage.com)
Random Note on pre-theatre dining in Armonk: Do you stress out about having enough time to grab a pre-theatre bite like we do? Parking for Whippoorwill Hall is conveniently located adjacent to Amore Italian Kitchen on Kent Place. And they are well schooled in getting diners in and out before the curtain rises. We had a great time at the bar and they served up our broccoli rabe, Harvest Salad and Nonna’s Meatballs (with a glass of Super Tuscan) so quickly we were able to stay for espresso and dessert. Loved the Afflogato. (1 Kent Place, Armonk, 914.273.3535; www.amorearmonk.com)