The earlier works of playwright Nora Leahy tell remarkable stories, are impressively portrayed, and clearly are beyond the limits of typical theatrical expectations. So you can imagine our excitement when it was announced that the Lean Ensemble Theater was not only producing her newest work, but staging the debut of “If You Forget Me.”
This spanking new work, which took several years to complete, is the kind of comedy that asks just the right questions, and which, by turns, invites us to laugh and, at the same time, to consider the serious issues that purposefully arise in the telling of her unique story.
Leahy’s storyline, a darkish comedy, really, presents Kate (Tamara Todres), who has found that her fiancé, Collin, has suffered a rare form of memory loss as the result of the trauma brought on by an automobile crash. What makes this story so compelling, and which contributes to Kate’s distress, and in fact, clearly worries us all, is that Collin has recovered from his injuries and does recall the details of his entire life, but somehow does not recall anything ... anything at all ... about Kate and their life, their wedding plans, their future. He has edited the Kate part. She has been voided out, she is invisible, she is completely missing in action. A tragic case of selective amnesia, they say.
Just so you’ll know, we are introduced to Collin as Kate plays and plays and plays again his message on her voice mail.
This is problematic, for sure, and almost intolerable for Kate, in a triumph of understatement.
So for Kate, the going gets tough, and even tougher.
Distracted by the new set of circumstances, and suffering from her own kind of trauma, Kate looks for aid and comfort when she moves back to her family home. The situation and circumstances with respect to Collin are not changed, but the scenario at the family home is difficult.
She is further distracted by her mother and sister, and their relationships, which, by the way, she may have disremembered. Her mother, Joann (Jenny Zmarzly), is a sympathetic, but “you can do anything you set about to do” kind of mother, just short of “now put on your big girl socks” and get on with the details of your life.
Kate’s discomfort is aided and abetted by her pregnant sister, Rachel (Libby Ricardo) who has come home, too, and it seems on the surface, at least, simply wants Kate to get better and rejoin life as she remembers it.
To continue down the pathway of what happens next, I am happy to share that a young man from Kate’s past, Matt, (Diego Colon) re-enters, and adds substance, warmth and texture to the comings and goings of Kate, Rachel and Joann, generally, and to this evening of first-rate theater specifically.
What an astonishing story Leahy sets down, and what outstanding characterizations and stellar performances come from Tamara Todres and Diego Colon, and from Libby Ricardo and Jenny Zmarzly, of the Lean Ensemble.
The imaginative and charismatic direction comes from Sara Newhouse as she intellectually and sympathetically takes on these amazing characters whom Leahy has created, and puts them through their seriously significant paces.
Newhouse continues the pathway established so impressively and sensitively by Leahy to deal with tragedies ... loss of life, opportunity, even confidence.
Leahy is anxious to encourage the need for moving forward, and taking on a new way of being while ... Newhouse, responding to Leahy ‘s truths, sees them clearly, and carefully puts them in place.
So now — immediately following this world premier performance, still responding to the impact of this stop-you-in-your-tracks, sui generis theater experience — I enthusiastically encourage you to book reservations for this astonishing play.
Take in the powerful performances of this finely tuned cast, which comes together brilliantly to offer this debut performance, this never-before-seen production of Nora Leahy’s unforgettable “If You Forget Me.”
If you go
What: “If You Forget Me.” A production of The Lean Ensemble Theater
When: Through March 23, 7:30 p.m.; March 24, 2 p.m.
Where: Main Street Theatre, 3000 Main St., Hilton Head Island
For more information: Visit www.LeanEnsemble.org or call 843-715-6676.