Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The postcard for Lenora Champagne's TRACES/fades has the image of a young girl wheeling her grandmother along at a high speed: both are giddy. Unfortunately, the actual production rarely has such glimmers of life. There are hints of humor, crackles of poignancy, and some terrific images from Robert Lyons's co-direction, but Champagne's depiction of Alzheimer's comes across as patronizingly as Nurse Harper's attitude toward her addled patients. A mournful set of images are projected onto the background, starting with snow, which Claire (Champagne) then emphasizes "makes a clean white blanket of forgetting." Soon after, Claire specifies that her mother, Ann (Joanne Jacobson), with her mind bundled in the depths of that blanket, did not expect this. Honestly, who does? Even the second half of the play, which takes place in a senior care center, seems more demonstrative than dramatic, with the dialogue straining to show us the highs and lows. (It doesn't help that Amelie Champagne Lyons, who plays Anne's granddaughter, doesn't really provide much of an energetic contrast.) Still, it's sensitive topic material, and the closeness of it to Champagne's heart is reflected in the quirky songs that her other 'inmates' sing, from Hilda's choked ability to remember those who have died in her life, but not the wars in which they died, to Delores's no-nonsense appreciation of eating, which serves as a reminder that they're living. For me, the strongest image is of the nurse restraining Ann to her wheelchair with a device that she explains as being "just like a cummerbund." It's not, but these little injustices and deprivations are where Champagne most clearly succeeds.