By David Walters
You won’t forget about Then They Forgot About the Rest by Georgina Escobar for some time as the experience will tap your senses and seep into the gelatinized grey matter in your skull and stick there for some time, or at least until early early onset creeps in.
The subject matter in the play is just the opposite of what you’ll experience: What would be worth it, and to what extent would you go, to forget something and have that memory replaced by a new one? Physiologically, a memory that would need to be deleted would be tied to a trauma that the body permanently feels, and that trauma would then need to be linked to a new memory within the body in order to drop the old link.
Somewhere in the near future in a corrugated steel Quonset hut bunker built into the desert floor, there’s been a worldwide cataclysmic event that has wiped out one billion of the world’s population. Those that are left continue on not knowing what else to do, working, taking vitamins, as “it takes a long time for the power plant to shut down.”
Jeanie (Renata Friedman) has a horrific tactile memory of the death of her daughter that permeates every sleeping and waking moment of her life. To try and break free of those chains she goes to a memory-altering drug trial at a big pharmaceutical company, accompanied by her doubting sister Sybil (Mindy Escobar-Leanse), and signs away all responsibility in order to have a shot at exorcizing the debilitating memory from her mind.
The scientist leading the project, Dr. Locke (Gabriel Marin), explains the risks and possible outcomes of the trial and guides Jeanie on her journey. As the drug, administered through the eyes, takes effect, the action fades to inside Jeanie’s mind as she grapples with releasing the memory and creating a new one that she can live with.
On that journey to forgetfulness, using a refrigerator from her youth as a portal, she blindly stumbles through her warped apocalyptic world as simultaneously an ad agency is working on building the campaign for the mass release of the new, still in trials, memory-erasing drug labeled Alleviate.
Director David Mendizabal keeps the pace moving, the lights flashing, and the floors shaking in telling this complicated tale. Set designers Christopher and Justin Swader, lighting designer Cha See, and music and sound designer Enrico de Trizio collaborated beautifully in completely transforming the space at Intar to bring the audience underground, feeling the isolation of the desert location, the sand seeping in, and the dystopian environment as soon as they walk in the door. All chairs have been eliminated and benches constructed for seating to create a ¾ playing space that brings the audience up, on and into the set.
If you are a thinking person, this semi-immersive experience will lead you to a journey into your own mind and to that box of memories behind the curtain in your cranium that you may just want to tamper with. A journey into the far reaches of self that won’t be easy to forget.
INTAR is one of the United States’ longest running theatres producing Latino/Latina voices in English since 1966.
Then They Forgot About the Rest is the second portion of a trilogy (with Sweep and The Shepherds of Arcadia). It solidly stands on its own.
Then They Forgot About the Rest (through May 12, 2019)
INTAR Theatre, 500 West 52nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.intartheatre.org
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission