Browncoat Pub and Theatre and Up All Night Productions are offering a special summer treat for Wilmington audiences: a chance to “Forget About It.” An original full-length play, ostensibly about amnesia, “Forget About It” by Zeb Mims explores the question of how much we control the creation of our own lives.
For many new playwrights, standard topics consist of either family drama or romance. Mims has taken a very creative and different approach. The show opens with two roommates, Daniel (Josh Bailey) and Nate (Matt Carter), who are having a very difficult morning. Daniel claims he doesn’t remember anything, including what day it is; however, Nate has endured enough of Daniel’s late nights to be less than impressed with this early-morning debate.
Daniel is earnest; he cannot remember the last seven months of his life. Seeking some solace and an opportunity to clear his head, he lands at the local coffee shop with a stunningly beautiful young woman named Molly (Lily Nicole). She and Daniel apparently have met before, but she is prepared to go with Daniel’s claim that he has no memory of it. In fact, she seems quite interested in trying to help Daniel recover from his memory loss.
Meanwhile, Nate has called Daniel’s psychiatrist, Linda (Mickey Johnson). Linda might be the most unhelpful psychiatrist since Dr. Phil. Slowly, the four piece together that Daniel’s memory loss is related to his ex-girl friend, Alice (Laura Baucom), and the traumatic aftermath of their break-up.
The script is skillfully crafted for such a young writer. Mims slowly reveals the unexpected and difficult ways to build dramatic tension, while still managing to surprise and unsettle the audience. Daniel slowly discovers he has actually been a pretty bad person to his friends and loved ones for the last half year—which is not an easy thing to accept. But it is laudable that he decides to “hit the reset button,” as he puts it, and make a change, no matter how drastic that has to be.
Josh Bailey is really blooming as an actor this year. As Daniel he makes choices not necessarily obvious, but they do have the ring of “truth.” More so, he admirably balances the push and pull that is fighting it’s way out of Daniel: “I’m a new person and I’m fine with it—you should be, too.” He doesn’t go for the: “I can’t remember anything and I am scared of what’s going on.” That’s not an easy balance to live with. Bailey takes the audience there with him, and we slowly realize it’s not just his struggle, but his true coming-of-age moment that we are traveling with him. At what point does he have to own up to who he is and the ramifications of his actions?
Carter and Johnson as the comic relief are quite a pair. Actually, this is some of Johnson’s best work to date. She has quite a capacity for dead-pan comedy that hasn’t fully been explored yet. Paired against the manic slapstick behavior of Carter, they are pretty irresistible to watch. Carter plays well with others onstage—a skill that is frequently under appreciated. He has real and genuine concern for Daniel, but he is also mystified as to what the best possible course could be. How can Daniel have been suicidal last week and now blithely unconcerned? That’s frustrating under the best of circumstances; for his roommate it’s mildly terrifying. Carter has a complex set of emotions and desires to attempt to maneuver but still must make accessible to the audience. His interplay, especially with Bailey, is impressive.
Nicole’s Molly is so clearly a catch: She’s beautiful, sophisticated, kind, and smart. If anything, Nicole almost makes her too perfect. She is clearly Mims’ ideal woman brought to the page. As a result, Act I left me wondering how any other woman could possibly trump Molly in the eyes of Daniel? Who was the stunner that had left him so scared? When we finally meet the much-heralded Alice, it becomes an incredible let down, as it would have to be. No one could live up to this created image Daniel obsessed over for seven months—one played out for the audience for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Baucom’s Alice is a mirror and little else. She has few lines; we see very little of her character or humanity. She is on and off stage in less than 15 minutes, and aside from her pretty blonde curls, we know nothing about her. She exists only to frame the emotions of the other characters. I think this is actually a very smart choice on Mims’ part. To build any real background for her would have distracted form Daniel’s journey, which wasn’t really about Alice, as much as about himself. Unfortunately, that’s why he fails to see the real prize that is sitting under his nose the whole time. He doesn’t know and respect himself enough to get to know another person of equal worth.
Director Nick Reed and his assistant director, Kristina Auten, combine a good eye for detail, especially in regards to movement and innuendo—an aspect of direction that it can take time to grow into. The preshow and transition music also is essential to following the unfolding plot. Clues are hidden in the lyrics of each selection that correspond with Daniel’s own journey at that point. Perhaps what I find so impressive about this effort is the team really made everything come together. The script is remarkably good, the design concept and execution buoys up the production—it doesn’t distract and it isn’t half-hearted, two pitfalls that are frequent traps for the young and enthusiastic with a limited budget. The performances really support not only each other but the work overall.
Part of what makes this theatre community a wonderful place as an audience member is the opportunity to see people try something new and to see if it flies. This group of young artists epitomizes those early risks. While “Forget About It” entertains, the script also asks important questions about how human relationships work and what our responsibility to others really encompass. Can we truly convince ourselves and others that we are a completely different person? Can we remake ourselves in an image we like better? These are not simple questions but go to the root of the human experience. Mims doesn’t really provide answers, but also he doesn’t take a simple and overdone device as an easy escape. This is an evening of brave theatre, and it deserves an audience.
Forget About It
July 17th-20th, 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees, 5 p.m.
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace Street