In the wake of failing memory, have you truly lost yourself? Currently making its debut at the Cherry Artspace, “Heading into Night” explores the discoveries made through memory loss, giving the concept of forgetting a fresh new perspective.
Devised by Beth F. Milles and Daniel Passer, this play was crafted non-traditionally. Instead of starting with a script, it was built from the ground up by a team dedicated to experimental theatre. This model of play development worked its magic for “Heading into Night,” organically building a world of endless discovery and reflection for the performer.
Word about Tthe March 17 sopening night performance must have travelled with the birds around Ithaca because the 7:30 show on March 18 was met with a full house. W. While there were only about 50 seats available, it was a breath of fresh air to see every one filled with masked but smiling faces eager to experience new theatre.
Gentle, elevator music lulls the audience into the atmosphere as they wait for the show to begin. It opens on a minimalist stage:, a blank canvas with onlyother than three wooden chairs. There are white boxes scattered all over the space, but at first glance, they seem to be for renovation purposes. It’s quickly revealed that they’re strategically placed, and they become important as the show progresses.
A creative mind behind and on the stage, Daniel Passer stars as the leading unnamed performer. The first sequence of scenes moves with parallel structure. Passer enters the stage carrying one of the white boxes, sits on the middle chair, taps the top of and/or opens the box, watches as a bus stops, waits, and keeps driving—a metaphorical one brought to life with Cristian Amigo and Rob Natoli’s sound design—and runs off stage realizing he’s forgotten something. This scene is repeated a few times, placing emphasis on the show’s leading themes of memory and forgetfulness.
Passer’s 12 years of experience with Cirque du Soleil manifest in “Heading into Night”’s’s” clown artistry. His use of physical comedy, audience interaction, and clowning help ease audiences into this style of performance, especially considering its lack of traditional script, dialogue, and plot progression.
The spatial relationship between Passer and Will DeVary—who appears as “the mover” throughout the show—is engaging and heart-wrenching. DeVary’s purpose is to physically create chaos with the boxes, moving them all over the stage and creating confusion for the performer. However, the performer’s lost in their own mind, so having someone else around to remind them of moments lost in time (the boxes each holding different memories) is comforting in an unexpected way.
DeVary plays the mysterious mover very well, providing both comedic relief and built-in set changes effortlessly. He disguises himself in dark corners of the stage when he’s not active in a given scene, allowing him to appear and disappear without a trace. He draws attention without taking focus off Passer, which creates a strong character balance between the two.
The show’s physical comedy wouldn’t be complete without Amigo and Natoli’s sound design, Ashley Crespo’s lighting design, and Nils Hoover’s projections. Each memory gives the performer a certain response, complemented by a respective lighting and sound choice. The most compelling design elements presented themselves in moments of panic for the performer, where they’re trying to remember memories they’ve lost. The random use of strobe lights and loud noises could have come with a warning, but they were still effective.
The only lines of dialogue, outside of Passer’s comedically placed reactive sounds, appear in the show’s final moments, giving voice to the performer as he finds solace in a life of fragmented memory. The haunting tune of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” pulls the audience out of the performer’s head as the metaphorical curtains close, a final glimmer of promise for the performer’s aging mind.
Accepting life as it comes and living in the moment can bring joy and growth unlike any other. If the performer’s discoveries aren’t proof enough, forgetting is not a loss. Instead, it gives the opportunity to explore new realities, finding yourself over and over again in the unknown.
“Heading into Night” by Beth F. Milles and Daniel Passer, directed by Beth F. Milles. With Daniel Passer, Will DeVary, and Anya Gibian.
At the Cherry Artspace,
102 Cherry St., Ithaca.
Livestream option available
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