If you have recently lost a loved one, you will relate to stage and television actress Tyne Daly’s character Victoria in Chasing Mem’ries at the Geffen Playhouse. You will also empathize with Scott Kradolfer playing Victoria’s son Mason. Both have lost one of the most important people in their life, Franklin, Victoria’s husband of 57 years and Mason’s father (played by Broadway star Robert Forster).
This world premiere of Chasing Mem’ries is a drama, comedy and musical written and directed by Josh Ravetch, and song lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
The play opens with Mason walking down the aisle of the audience talking to guests. He tells one audience member “Hello Stella…She is doing ok, thanks for asking,” before handing the conductor and piano player (Thomas Griep) sheet music and walking onto the set.
Scenic Designer Tony Fanning’s impressive Connecticut home with Fall leaves on the shingle roof, offers the audience a glimpse of a dusty attic filled with years of memories. There is a Penn State pennant, pair of old snow shoes, a globe, telescope, tricycle and stacks of books.
The lights dim as Daly enters and puts a record on an old record console. With a slight limp, she looks as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders, and opens with the first song “Where Do You Start” about the bits of memories scattered here and there filled with “dreams of yours and mine.”
Mason walks up the stairs and joins her. We learn he flew home from California to organize his father’s memorial service. Stepping into the attic, he realizes he hasn’t been up here since he was a kid.
Some days should be avoided at all cost, especially when you have a memorial with over 250 people. It’s way too daunting for both Victoria and Mason.
Playwright and Director Josh Ravetch’s will have you laughing as Mason tells his mother about the cast of characters that are down below (us) on the lawn waiting for the service to begin. There is a three piece band (Griep on piano, cello by Stefanie Fife and flute/clarinet by Geoff Nudell) to accompany four inch high heeled Thelma preparing to sing “The Way We Were.”
Victoria is a woman not quite ready to let go of the life she’s loved, and offers some chuckles about how the world is changing so fast.
Mason’s conventional mother is gobsmacked about hearing that she is in the center of the turmoil between her son and his finance breaking up. It’s hard for her to understand, since she gave her son love, comfort and allowed him to dance through life freely.
The production grows serious when Victoria begs for her dearly departed Franklin to appear and comfort her. Rather than join the guests on their lawn, Victoria retreats in the attic of a house that has been in the family for three generations waiting for his arrival. She does not feel she will make it on her own as a widow. She “is set adrift in a world they knew so well.”
Franklin appears with the help of Lighting Designer Daniel Ionazzi. While Daly sings beautifully, Josh Ravetch encouraged Forster to “spoke-sing his songs” just like Rex Harrison did in My Fair Lady. He does this as he reminds his wife that their life memories are down on the lawn, not up in the attic. He reassures Victoria that he will always be with her. “Don’t stay up in the dust, go to your friends,” and advises her “Squeeze every precious drop from every precious moment.”
When she takes her shoes off and walks up the steps to the dormer window to speak to the guests at the memorial, the audience applauds, as Victoria gathers up chutzpah and speaks her mind.
There is a parallel between Mason’s fiancé – an astronaut, and Victoria exploring her new world as a widow. It’s a great leap for her. A tender moment is when Mason kisses his mother’s hand to comfort her.
This 90-minute play proves that life is cruel when two people find one another and then one day, one person has to continue on a journey and endure the future alone.
Leaving the theatre, I realized that what matters most in life is to be loved. Love is a precious gift.