If you groan when you hear the phrase “memory play,” you were probably forced to read The Glass Menagerie in school and are biased against them on principle. Even if this is you, Forget Me Not, playing at the Andrews Theatre July 25th and 26th as part of the Buffalo Infringement Festival, might change your mind. Originally developed as part of the Road Less Traveled Productions New Play Workshop, Forget Me Not is based on playwright Diane Almeter Jones’ own experience in Limestone, NY. It has been seen across Buffalo, most recently at the Kavinoky Theatre. Then, it saw significant revisions, and is now being presented here in Buffalo before it travels to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It should fit right in at the world’s largest performing arts festival; it’s arguably more living snapshots than a “play” in the traditional sense. There’s a flashlight sequence that literally feels like snapshots. It is executed with ease.
. . .heartwarming and poignant. . .
Maybe it’s a tad redundant, but Jones really understands these characters. That’s probably because she is one. The dialogue is natural at times, almost fantastic at others. Jones is fictionalizing events but using real letters to supplement the dramatic action. I was astonished almost immediately at how well she layers fantasy over realism and how easily she floats between the two. It’s an excellent piece, pushing the boundaries of theatrical storytelling while captivating the audience. It’s standard for Buffalo theatergoers to shuffle in their seats, cough without reprieve, or even have full conversations during some performances. Jones manages to create an atmosphere of silent anticipation, true “edge of your seat” drama. The only sound I heard was “wow” as the lights came down.
As Diane (the character), Brittany Bassett has the difficult task of driving the play’s non-linear story without words. Quickly establishing herself as one of Buffalo’s premier young actresses, Bassett is up to the task. She has the expressiveness that silent movie actors would kill for, and she’s equal parts engaging and enthralling. The fluid nature of the storytelling makes it imperative to have a strong narrative thru-line, and Bassett puts on that responsibility with ease. As June, Diane’s grandmother, Anne Roaldi Boucher is stretched to the emotional limit. Boucher, too, has no trouble with the non-linear storytelling. Where a lesser actress may have “played up” the fantasy, Boucher takes the given moment for exactly what it is, often snapping in an out of the fantasy with ease. She’s particularly effective in the scene where she receives the dreaded telegram. As Harry, June’s husband, Zachary Bellus captures the young lover, the bitter younger sibling, and the matured soldier all in one fell swoop. Playing his older brother Francis, Nick Stevens makes an imposing soldier and terrific role model. The two have a camaraderie and chemistry that reminds me of my younger brother, and it must be surreal for Jones’ family to watch these two embody the real-life characters. [I read on the website for the production that a member of Jones’ family was impressed with how well Boucher was able to capture the real life June]
I cannot say enough about how pleased I was to get to see this show here in Buffalo. It’s a heartwarming and poignant story where family is the real central character. It deals with themes that are so important to today’s world, including pain you can’t always see or even name. Because the show is only running two days here in Buffalo, it’s likely this article will be post-production, but I would encourage those people reading it to follow the production online as it travels to Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe.
“Forget Me Not” played two performances at the Andrew’s Theatre on July 25 and 26, 2019. For more information, click here.