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Theater review: 'Forgotten' at the Odyssey

November 22, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Pat Kinevan in "Forgotten"
Change the last syllable of Pat Kinevane's name and you'll get a clue to his acting style.  In short, Kinevane is kinetic -– big and sinewy and lithe, with the meditative absorption and suppleness of a yoga master.

Kinevane's solo show, “Forgotten,” now at the Odyssey, began in 2006 as a work-in-progress at Dublin's Fishamble Company and has toured internationally since. Kinevane and director Jim Culleton, the artistic director of Fishamble, have collaborated on several solo shows, and the ease of their long association is apparent. Audience reactions have purportedly influenced the development of the piece through the years, although the rigorously calibrated Odyssey production --  an entry in Ireland’s cultural outreach program, Imagine Ireland -- seems definitive.

“Forgotten” examines society's shabby treatment of the elderly through the perspective of four characters, all nursing home residents. Shunted aside by family and treated as inconveniences by caregivers, the seniors in “Forgotten” are human cargo awaiting their final insertion into pine boxes.

They are also surprisingly resilient.  And true to their Irish origins, all are mesmerizing storytellers whose reminiscences, from the specific to the hallucinatory, comprise the bulk of the action. 

For the aristocratic Dora, the retirement home in question is obviously upscale.  For combative former laborer, Flor, the home is grimly downmarket.  Eucharia, Dora's former maid, is humorously obsessed with makeup –- an unintentionally ironic hedge against fleshly dissolution.  Gustus, seen only from behind (and Kinevane's back is more expressive than most performer’s fronts), faces the wall as he recounts the shame of a wanton daughter.

That summary gives only a scant idea of the piece, which may be explicit in its intended message but is mysterious in its medium -– sometimes frustratingly so. Three of the characters are linked by common incidents in their past, one seems extraneous to that narrative, and the thickly idiomatic language sometimes obscures events. 

Small matter. The play, which somewhat defies description, shatters conventional theatrical molds. Initially clad in a kimono, then stripping to a simple loincloth for most of the proceedings, Kinevane captures the desolation of old age with an uproarious gallows humor that is distinctively Irish.  “Forgotten” may be inaccessible at points, but it is a unique theatrical experience that challenges the mind –- and the heart.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Forgotten,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Dec. 4.  $25-$30.  (310) 477-2055. www.odysseytheatre.com.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Pat Kinevane.  Credit: Fishamble: The New Play Company.

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