Workhaus Collective kicks off its second season with Forgetting, a play about three grief-scarred women whose sole aim is to block pain. Or is this about one woman’s careening journey, told simultaneously from the perspective of three, seven, and ten years after her brother died? The women’s names resonate as archetypes—Blood, Bone, and Ash—and there appear to be similarities in how their brothers died. To be honest, I’m not sure. This play is like Ingmar Bergman on meth.
Forgetting, a play written by Trista Baldwin and directed by Daniella Topol. Presented by Workhaus Collective through November 10 at the Playwrights’ Center, 2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets ($8-$15) and information, see workhauscollective.org.
Three years after the tragedy, Blood (Julie Kurtz) lands in New York City and clings to a new boyfriend. Romance is her drug of choice. Kurtz—seen as Susanna in Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s Marriage of Figaro—plays Blood as a stumbling and shrill youth, drowning in desperation with flickering moments of insight.
At seven years without her brother, Bone (Catherine Johnson Justice) flings herself into online dating lubricated with alcohol and casual sex. Justice plays Bone with a boozy flare and sparks of sarcastic anger.
After a decade, Ash (Annie Enneking) embodies an obsessive observer who does a lot of shopping. Enneking is a Frank Theatre regular, having played Helen in Women of Troy and the title role in Mother Courage. As if propelled outside of herself, Ash is a relentless witness to her urban surroundings. With frenetic physicality, Enneking embodies addictive consumerism.
Nick Crandall, last seen in Workhaus’s Sad Grrl13 last spring, plays all the male roles with delightful versatility: Blood’s skittish boyfriend, Bone’s “dates”—including a comic Frenchman.
Playwright Trista Baldwin’s work has been produced Off-Broadway and in regional theatres. Her most recent work, American Sexy, was at the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival. Forgetting plays like surreal sketches from a diary. While often extraordinary, Baldwin’s writing feels more fit for a short story than the stage.
Coming from New York, where she’s collaborated with Baldwin before, director Daniella Topol pilots a high-speed narrative from bars to Coney Island to visits home. The straight-back chairs onstage could be orange cones for a race track. Would slowing the pace have drawn out more emotional truth? Topol praises Baldwin’s “theatricality,” but I found this element to be so excessive that it created over-the-top caricatures instead of characters we can care about.
Even with literary flash, a solid cast, and plenty of velocity, Forgetting remains cerebral. Workhaus Collective is a company run by playwrights who produce new works and are nearly fearless about taking risks. Unfortunately, Forgetting is a merely intriguing ride that leaves one strangely unmoved.
Lydia Howell, a winner of the 2007 Premack Award for Public Interest Journalism, is a Minneapolis independent journalist writing for various newspapers and online journals. She produces and hosts Catalyst: politics & culture on KFAI Radio on Fridays at 11 a.m.