Saturday, February 4, 2017

If I Forget

Yesterday I saw Steven Levenson's latest play to be done by Roundabout Theatre Company, If I Forget.

The play takes place in 2000, and part of the bitter painfulness of the production comes from the fact that we know what is going to happen over the next 17 years. When a character supporting Ralph Nader for president blithely opines that Bush and Gore aren't any different from one another, the entire audience groans.

Later, that character's sister, while not admitting she voted for Bush, says that Bush will be better for Israel. Her brother goes on a rather prophetic rant, claiming that while Republicans might pretend to like Jews for now, pretty soon, they'll come out with their white hoods and swastika armbands, all pressed and ready to wear again.

In reality, the particular conservatives he was talking about may instead have traded in their old uniforms for tailored suits and a re-branded image as "alt-right" instead of flat-out racist. Still, Levenson's point in clear. With hindsight, the United States of 2000 seems hopelessly innocent and naive. The world has become a less welcoming, less peaceful, less loving place since the end of the twentieth century.

The political event the play focuses on is the breakdown of the peace talks at Camp David, which pretty much ended the Oslo Accords. This is merely a backdrop, however, for the story of the disintegration of a family. Three siblings bicker over their aging father and what to do with a family store in a gentrifying neighborhood. The legacy of the family, and the legacy of our world today, seems very much in doubt by the final curtain.

If this sounds depressing, it should. If I Forget is looking to plumb some deep waters, and the play doesn't offer easy answers, and perhaps not any answers at all. The show runs until April 30th, and features some superb acting you won't want to miss.