A show to remember: If I Forget
Updated: Feb 5
Our February Majestic Readers’ Theatre Company performance is If I Forget by Steven Levenson and directed by Robert Leff. The play focuses on a secular Jewish family who have mostly let go of traditional beliefs and are grappling with forgetting the ethics of their ancestors.
In the final months before 9/11, the Fischer family adult children have assembled at the home of their father, Lou Fischer (Michael Wren) to celebrate his 75th birthday. Lou is a World War II vet who helped free a death camp. He is aware of the price to be paid by forgetting history. Michael (Lance Nuttman), the middle child, teaches Jewish Studies and has just published a controversial book that may cost him both his academic reputation and his current job. His sister, Holly (Wendy Aronson), is the confident firstborn child, with a privileged comfort coming from her husband Howard’s (Nikolai Kassatkin) financial shrewdness. Sharon (Beth Sobo Turk), the youngest, is their ailing father’s caretaker and biggest fan of retaining ownership of the family store in a gentrifying neighborhood. She gets support in this from Michael’s gentile wife, Ellen (Arlee Olson) who thinks the store is part of the family’s Jewish heritage. Michael, however, is not attached to a structure built by relatives who are no longer here. It‘s just a building that Holly’s son, Joey (John Lamb), will not inherit.
The play deals with numerous serious historical and family issues. Israel and Palestine peace efforts, deeply hidden motivations, fights over how to respond to parents’ aging and the failure of the Oslo Accords in 2000. On the surface, the title refers to a line from Psalm 137 which implores the Israelites to remember Jerusalem during their exile in Babylonia. Yet If I Forget is a very funny as well as a provocative production. The family members may argue, but they know when to stop squabbling and compromise. The dialog is clever, honest and engaging with more than just a touch of humor.
How the family approaches important decision-making, problem solving or even sharing feelings will be familiar to anyone who’s ever fought with a sibling over matters either trivial or important, and the emotional and physical toll of caring for an aging parent is painted with disturbing sadness. Families speak to each other using certain phrases influenced by shared past events; phrases that substitute for whole sentences which only have meaning if you grew up with them. The astounding thing about Levenson’s script is that we understand the Fischer family language even though it’s not our family. And even if you aren’t Jewish.
Robert Leff has selected a strong cast for his second show of our pandemic season. This is Robert’s eighth production directing for the Majestic Readers’ Theatre Company. Just six months ago he opened our season by directing Dear Elizabeth. The list of shows he directed for us include Time Stands Still, Tragedy Full of Joy: Stories by Bernard Malamud, Under Milk Wood, Distracted, Boy, and Marjorie Prime. The plays he chooses to submit brings us complex roles for actors and engaging theater for our audiences.
Michael Wren is a veteran Company member. He played Robert in the MRTC Production of Bloomsday last October and has many roles stretching back to 2015. He appeared in The Last Romance, Distracted, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Wendy Aronson was last seen on the Majestic Stage in 1991 in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum. Wendy now lives in Denver, Colorado where she had roles in Annie and Guys and Dolls for Inspire Creative.
Lance Nuttman joins us for his first MRTC Performance with many recognizable acting credits in McMinnville and Salem including Winston Smith (1984), Max Bialystock (The Producers) and Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire).
Beth Sobo Turk is our second first-timer. Her past roles include Annie Sullivan (The Miracle Worker) at an historical theater in north-western New York state, Belle (Beauty & the Beast) in McMinnville and was a member of the national tour company for Jesus Christ Superstar.
Arlee Olson appeared in last November’s Women Playing Hamlet, On the Verge in Season Seven and William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) in June of 2019.
Nikolai Kassatkin portrayed Robert Lowell in Dear Elizabeth, Algernon in the Importance of being Earnest and Walter in Marjorie Prime.
John Lamb has played Jack in Into The Woods at Lincoln High School, Rooster in Annie and several ensemble roles for Broadway Rose Teen Camp.
The show will be available to stream the weekend of February 27-28. Purchase tickets at https://tinyurl.com/mrtcforget. You will receive a link to the streaming site via email. The price is on a sliding scale; you can pick what you pay for tickets. Suggested prices range from $10 to $20 dollars. A $2.00 processing fee will be added to all tickets purchased online. You can also purchase tickets by calling the Business Office at 541-758-7827. Closed Captioning is available.