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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
If I Forget
Without rehashing the plot of this family comedy /drama, the first act is a cohesive and bitingly funny examination of modern American Jewish life without sounding cliched. The acting ensemble's timing and tonal interaction is seamless. Each character represents a different ideology in regards to Israel, history and present day sensibilities.
It is the year 2000 and The Gore/Bush election has been decided in spite of dangling chads. The whirl of political events — Gaza, Oslo, West Bank—pepper family conversation along with mentions of new inventions such as cell phones and computer fraud.
Robert Zukerman as Lou Fischer is the ailing patriarch of what will disintegrate into his warring tribe of children and spouses. A link to the past, he was part of the U.S. army which liberated Dachau. His son Michael (J. Anthony Crane) is a beleaguered college professor who has committed academic suicide by publishing a book which urges American Jews to put the Holocaust behind them. This, on the eve of his tenure vote.
His two bickering sisters, Lena Kaminsky as Sharon and Laura Jordan as Holly, resent his absences from family responsibility, but try to manipulate him to take sides in the quarrel over their father's needs and business. Kaminsky's Sharon is the more altruistic sister, concerned with her students and the Latino family who oversees the family's building in Washington, D.C. Jordan's Holly is sophisticated and pragmatic with no attachment to the past either emotionally or religiously.
Joined by Mitch Greenberg as Holly's wealthy husband, Kathleen Wise as Michael's loving and patient wife, and Issac Josephthal as Holly's clueless, rebellious teenaged son, replete with droopy pants and whine, the family interaction is filled with comedic revelations of each person's agenda without so much as a blip to the pace.
The tenor of Act Two however, is more serious and cumbersome as enough family secrets and troubles emerge to rival The Book of Job. Some of it rings false as does the esoteric ending which appears to be from another play.
John Mcdermott's atmospheric set suggests the claustrophobia of the aging Fischer home with the living room, dining room and a bedroom sharing the stage along as well as a kitchen space and the front door and entrance. One can feel the heaviness of the family relationship as reflected in the furnishings. The lighting design by Scott Pinkney focuses on each space while dimming the other rooms in effect creating a series of arenas for the multi-confrontations. Characters' personalities are indicted by the costumes of Elivia Bovenzi.
Direction by Jennifer Chambers enables each character to have a distinct personality that feeds the plot. While the pace of the first act is tight, as mentioned, act two slowly evolves so that it becomes more melodramatic than emotionally affecting.
Editor's Note: Given Levenson's high profile as the book writer for the hit musical Dear Evan Hensen anything he writes is likely to get many productions riding that show's coattails as well as its own merits.
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If I Forget by Steven Levenson Directed by Jennifer Chambers
Cast: J. Anthony Crane (Michael Fischer) Kathleen Wise (Ellen Manning) Laura Jordan (Holly Fischer) Mitch Greenberg (Howard Kilberg) Isaac Josephthal (Joey Oren) Lena Kaminsky (Sharon Fischer) Robert Zukerman (Lou Fischer)
Scenic Design: John McDermott
Lighting Design: Scott Pinkney
Costume Design: Elivia Bovenzi
Sound Design: Palmer Hefferan
Stage Manager: Leslie Sears
Running Time: two hours-thirty minutes; one intermission
Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage, Linden Street Pittsfield, MA
From 8/1/19; closing 9/8/19
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at the August 4th performance.
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