Quantum's 'Mnemonic' is a thoughtful mystery
A frozen body found in the Alps. A woman searching for her father. A cab driver in London. A chambermaid in Berlin. And a flock of international reporters and scientists.
They're just some of the bewildering assortment of characters you'll eventually meet in “Mnemonic.”
Stick with it, and you'll form a picture of the impact and interconnectedness of seemingly random people, events and perspectives.
It's important to note that the text for the play, which kicks off Quantum Theatre's 2013 season, is in itself an example of interconnections.
It was created through the collaborative efforts of the artists of the British theater company Complicité.
The play's web of connectivity weaves its way not just across continents, but backward in time as explained by actor Malcolm Tulip, who leads the audience through a meditative lecture on memory and relationships that connect us to the past.
Just as your attention begins to wander, you're called into the present when Tulip's cellphone interrupts with its own seemingly random connection — and projects us into the world of the play.
The characters are busy trying to make sense of the events in their own lives — unraveling the mysteries of discovering a body that turns out to be 5,000 years old, or figuring out why your girlfriend abruptly disappeared leaving only an enigmatic message on the cellphone.
Meanwhile, it's up to each member of the audience to follow them backward and forward in time to collect the puzzle pieces about what's going on.
Some of the connections are subtle.
It's important to be an active listener and a willing puzzle-solver over the course of the two-hour performance.
The task is made more difficult by the fact that the performance space is — or at least was on opening night — extremely warm. The audience is packed together in steeply banked rows of folding chairs.
The cast of seven travels speedily and cinematically, shifting themselves and furniture through a succession of locations in the deep, sparely decorated space.
Tulip's character, Simon, serves as a central connective point to many of the story lines. Carolina Loyola-Garcia appears as Simon's girlfriend, Alice, who is searching for her own past, as well as the father she never knew. Ken Bolden plays Simon's friend, Virgil, a scientist conducting the investigation into the frozen body.
Four highly creative actors — Patrick Jordan, Katy Soprano, Anand Nagraj and Antonio Marziale — do an incredibly adept job of creating a multiplicity of additional, but no-less-pivotal characters.
The space provides frustrations when support columns occasionally block the action. Additionally, many pivotal scenes located toward the front of the playing area are not always visible from seats in higher rows.
What works well and supports interest are Joe Pino's sound designs, Joe Seamans' video designs and C. Todd Brown's lighting designs that artistically support location and ambiance.
The impact of “Mnemonic” may not be immediate.
But the next day, as you find yourself pondering its themes of individual and collective memory — what we each remember or forget or the multiple perspectives from which we view the same event — you may better appreciate the journey you undertook.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.