As I sat watching “You Will Remember Me,” I found myself nodding. Not nodding off, as in falling asleep. Not even close. I was nodding in recognition and agreement with many of the viewpoints being channeled through the characters on stage at Whippoorwill Hall, where this thought-provoking, mind-bending drama runs through Oct. 29.
Montreal playwright Francois Archambault has a lot on his mind. He’s interested in ideas. Alas, “people aren’t interested in ideas, they only want to feel,” bemoans his lead character Edouard Beauchamin. The retired professor of history is short on memory but not on grievances about the declining state of culture.
Hudson Stage is presenting Mr. Archambault’s gripping play “You Will Remember Me” through Oct. 29 at Whippoorwill Hall Theatre in Armonk. (For ticket and other information: HudsonStage.com, 914-271-2811.)
The author calls ours “an era of extreme intellectual mediocrity,” in part because “being angry and name-calling isn’t thinking—it isn’t even particularly serious behavior.” As we’re all too familiar from fact-free, emotionally charged social media posts—especially about politics—“you don’t even have to know what you’re talking about.”
He coins a lot of choice lines along those lines. I could fill almost this entire space with the slings and arrows he aims—with unerring accuracy—at our collective foibles.
All those sentiments are expressed by Edouard, whose frustrating struggles with progressive memory loss, while still in his 60s, are ironic and made more tragic because he is such a conscientious thinker. He could pinpoint a litany of historical dates and events but, as the cliché goes, don’t ask him what he ate for breakfast.
He also keeps forgetting the identity of the young lady (Ella Dershowitz) watching over him, even though her dad, Patrick (Chris Kipiniak), is dating Edouard’s daughter, Isabelle (Susannah Schulman Rogers). Save for Ms. Dershowitz, all are members of Actors Equity.
The twentysomething’s name is Berenice, which connects her in Edouard’s addled mind to a long lost family member whose middle name is the same. As Edouard’s condition worsens, and becomes unbearable for his wife and daughter to handle, he is bounced around repeatedly, and not very gently, much like a rugby ball in a scrum. Patrick’s distracted daughter warms to the task of an attentive nursemaid, accepting the guise he assigns to her of his absent loved one.
Mr. Hutton is remarkably convincing and touching in the challenging role of a proud intellectual whose joy for life and for big ideas is not about to be dimmed by the ravages of a devastating disease. The cast members who orbit around his star turn form a solid ensemble of emotional connection and mistrust.
A bonus of sorts is an unexpected brief but delightful dance interlude that is used to illuminate the various relationships. It is choreographed by Broadway luminary Tony Yazbeck, who was a Tony Award nominee for “On the Town” and was in “Finding Neverland.” There also is judicious use of sound and visual imagery.
Andrew Gmoser’s masterly lighting schemes always deserve mention. Guided by canny director and stage magician Dan Foster—who is co-producer of Hudson Stage with Denise Bessette and Olivia Sklar—it all adds up to an engaging, compelling theater experience.
I found Edouard an inspiring character from whom I could learn new things. He likens humans to plant species in how both exhibit a natural inclination toward expanding their territories.
His curiosity about ecology lends itself to the arresting stage design, which is a proud signature of every production of Hudson Stage. Here, Steven Kemp earns visual applause for his striking ingenuity. The monochromatic motif fills the proscenium space with white cylindrical shapes that emulate stalagmites and stalactites, to connote trees in a forest. There also are outbursts of silver flora to represent common phragmites. Even if you’re unsure how to pronounce it (frag-mighties), you’ve surely seen it around Northern Westchester.
They are tall and slender amber reeds that populate fields or roadsides and sway lazily in the gentlest breeze. Their notoriety for crowding out other plant life reminds him of mass culture killing off fine culture, or superpowers like the U.S. and China bulldozing whatever obstructs their path to world domination. For me, the strands of the phragmites stood as apt analogs for the frayed synapses tormenting both Edouard and those in his thrall.
As we watched the play, my wife, Elyse, and I happened to be sitting next to a woman from the Hudson Valley Alzheimer’s Association, Jonelle Ward, director of outreach. Afterwards, she explained to us the distinction between the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s. The former is a general term that encompasses many different conditions, of which Alzheimer’s is the most notorious. In some cases, she said, other forms of dementia are reversible.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosts free informational sessions in cooperation with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS). The next is Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 7:30-9 p.m. at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners. It will offer “advice on how to handle tough topics when a loved one has dementia.” For more information, visit Alz.org or call 800-272-3900.
Another free opportunity is offered on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the offices of elder law attorney Salvatore A. Di Costanzo in Yorktown Heights. He is hosting an informal “fireside chat” for adult children who want to learn more about such topics as estate planning. For more information, contact Melanie Harrison at email@example.com or 914-245-2440.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. As “Bruce the Blog,” Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and PennySaver, and a contributing writer for Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce the Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.