In Memory, Jonathan Lichtenstein’s potent exploration of how people compartmentalize their experiences, barriers-—both physical and emotional—rise and fall. The drama begins with a group of actors preparing to rehearse a play about Peter (Lee Haven-Jones), a young Englishman who visits Eva (Vivien Parry), his grandmother, in East Berlin just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He wants to meet Eva because her heroism during the war is something of a family legend. The actors’ pre-rehearsal casualness disappears as the director (Christian McKay) announces the first scene, in which Parry (playing the actress Viv, who’s playing Eva) contorts her face and body into that of a withered 78-year-old woman. It’s a fascinating glimpse at the theatrical process and a grand demonstration of Parry’s talent.
The play being rehearsed crisscrosses through time, revealing Eva’s life before and after Hitler’s rise to power, her marriage to a Jew (Simon Nehan), and their subsequent betrayal by her husband’s gentile business partner (Daniel Hawksford). Concurrently, the actors rehearse a second contemporary piece about the demolition of an Arab’s home in Bethlehem to make way for a security wall. In director Terry Hands’s seamless production, the two pieces never seem at odds, and we watch intrigued by both. Our intellectual response shifts at the production’s midpoint, when the houselights (which are only dimmed at the outset) are finally extinguished. At this juncture, we fall headfirst into the compelling tales and their tragic conclusions. Just as the actors give themselves over to the plays being rehearsed, so do we, and Lichtenstein’s drama—part historical, part political—gains the ability to deliver a theatrical blow that sends us reeling.