Ah, memory plays. You have to slow down, really slow down and shift gears when a memory play begins. It's a universe
Last Friday, when the lights came up on The Sun is in the West," a new play by Damon Falke presented at Fort Lewis
College, guitarist Dave Seaton slowly made his way through the audience. Carrying his instrument over his shoulder, he
mounted the stage, looked about and finally sat on a lone chair. He plugged his electric guitar into its box, quietly
tuned up and played some blues. At the end, Seaton reprised the same tune providing a musical frame for the play. So
began and ended a leisurely, low key drama about time, place and memory.
Falke's play with musical interludes unspooled in 80 minutes. Well cast, rehearsed and cleanly presented, however, the
performance felt as if it took an eternity. The problem lies partly in the form. Memory plays tend to be highly
reflective and dangerously prone to creep. The best, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie," Brian Friel's Dancing
at Lughnasa" or a new play by Caridad Svich based on Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits," combine reflection with
action and tension - remembered moments from the past coming to life and shaping the future.
Falke's play is essentially three long monologues delivered in small pieces. Spread over the course of the evening,Falke's memory fragments are interrupted by 13 musical interludes. The music provides scaffolding, scene breaks, as it
were. The author's structural symmetry feels precisely conceived, and as ably directed by Charles Pepiton, it also was
cleanly delivered by the company.
The basic problem of flatness, however, seems to reside in the writing: An evening of dreamy, I remember when,"
low-key monologues can be stultifying.
Set in a Texas Gulf Coast cemetery, Sun" begins with the musician's easy entrance onto a nearly bare stage. Designer
Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton keeps to the script's minimalist spirit by covering three standing flats with cloud-patterned
fabric and arranging them in an arc. Beneath each she has placed a small mound of sand plus an additional
burial mound" in the center - a symbolic graveyard under a vast sky.
One by one, the three no-named characters follow the guitarist into this spare universe. The Groundskeeper (Sean
Downing), The Photographer (Felicia Meyer) and The Historian (Geoff Johnson) look around and reflect on the place and
the people buried there, spilling out one shard of memory at a time. They speak quietly and casually, sinking into
thought as if they had all the time in the world to reflect on their youth and all the people they carry with them - in
Fortunately, each character has a different voice and different point of view. The Photographer lingers in memory and
drifts into the aesthetics of her craft. The Historian, notebook in hand, riffs on family stories and facts,"
particularly colorful Civil War history. The Groundskeeper connects pieces of his family narrative and delivers the
most poetic argument for the pull of home."
Consistent with a tone of soft recollection, director Pepiton has apparently coaxed Meyer and Downing to underplay
their parts. Both employ low-key projection, lengthy pauses and symbolic slow motion to suggest reverie. In contrast,Johnson brings some much needed energy to the performance. With a more vivid storytelling style, Johnson's sharper
vocal production and physical movements enable The Historian to break through the monochromatic texture and give the
work some color.
Given the material, tone and structure of the play, there is little a director can do to sketch something other than
murky shades of gray. When The Groundskeeper reports a curious conversation with tourists, it may be a clue to Falke's
and Pepiton's intentions. Tourists wonder what is so special about a flat and boring landscape. The Groundskeeper
replies that, to him, it is home. It's a poetic statement, but prolonged reverie doesn't make for compelling
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.