If Samuel Beckett had written a relentless monodrama about a quartet of elderly Dubliners, three of them, Flor, Dora and Eucharia, female, and the fourth, Gustus, male, and arranged to have it played as a kind of bizarre drag act, the result might be something like Pat Kinevane’s “Forgotten,” now paying a brief visit to the Irish Arts Center.
The members of Kinevane’s quartet, all between the ages of 80 and 100, and residing “in separate retirement homes and care facilities around Ireland,” are played by the author, naked except for a kind of black sarong, which hangs below his waist.
At times, the performer’s costume is briefly augmented by scarves, robes and by a mask of elaborate clown-white makeup applied as Kinevane sits at a dressing table at one corner of the stage.
There are some good jokes. At one point, he describes one of his ancient chums as “talking back to her Rice Krispies.” At another, he envisions a heaven with Mae West installed in the place usually assigned to St. Peter.
Kinevane, a native of Cobh, County Cork, is a veteran of more than two decades of working in Ireland’s major theaters, with abundant credits performing in plays by authors ranging from Brian Friel and Oscar Wilde to Samuel Beckett, William Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats and J.B. Keane.
Much of his work as a writer has been done with Fishamble: The New Play Company, the Dublin group which has brought “Forgotten” to the Irish Arts Center. Kinevane’s writing credits are on the thin side, despite the fact that in 1998, his play, “The Nun’s Wood,” won the BBC Stewart Parker Trust Award. A brief Kinevane play, “Evangeline Everywhere,” appeared in 59E59 Theaters in September 2008.
As both an actor and a writer, Kinevane knows how easily elderly people can be overlooked, ignored, and forgotten. The irony and the sadness of “Forgotten” lies in the way that Kinevane appears to have been so eager to provide himself with an absorbing performance piece — which he has indeed accomplished — that he’s allowed his basic story to blur into near incomprehensibility.
Unfortunately, based on a single viewing of Kinevane’s show, those Irish oldsters are themselves pretty much forgotten, lost in the coils of the author’s determination to maintain an active and watchable stage, whatever the cost to the material and to the goals he’d set himself.
Flor, Dora, Eucharia and Gustus, apart from a few fleeting anecdotes, simply aren’t in the play or on the stage, and the audiences won’t have much insight to take away with them after the frenetic 80 minutes of Kinevane’s show.
Jim Culleton, Fishamble’s Artistic Director, scored with his direction of Sebastian Barry’s “The Pride of Parnell Street” at this past fall’s 1st Irish Festival at 59E59 Theaters. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to have solved some of the grievous problems built into “Forgotten,” which has been described as “a bold fusion of one-man show and Japanese Kabuki theater.”
With better luck, the production might have achieved the clarity, directness and compassion which could very probably have resulted in a vastly more satisfying experience in the theater.