Performing Arts: Theater
January 11, 2016
The Institute of Memory (TIMe) by Lars Jan is a fascinating examination of what impressions we make in the world and on the people around us. Part biography, part historical research, part potential spy thriller, it combines to be more than the sum of its parts and, paradoxically, less.

Over the course of 80 minutes, we learn about Jan’s relationship (or lack thereof) with his father. Using only two actors (Andrew Schneider and Sonny Valicenti), his own memories, and official documentation (including transcribed wire-taps obtained from the Institute of Memory in Poland), we travel through time from 1958 to the present, from Poland to the performance space, as Jan tries to understand the nature of his relationship with his elusive father. In doing so, he also explores the question of whether we can truly know anyone, especially if they do not want to be known. He also looks at what privacy means and whether we’ve ever had it, especially now with Snowden’s revelations about the NSA.

A graduate from the California Institute of the Arts in Integrated Media and Directing, Jan not only wrote the piece, but also designed and directed as well. The spartan, minimalistic set is surprisingly versatile and smartly used. There is a touch of multimedia with the constant stream of projections in the background. They unobtrusively support the action onstage while being fascinating in their own right. Additionally, the sound design by Nathan Ruyle and Mikaal Sulaiman is compelling, centering on Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony with vocals contributed by Mariana Sadovska.

In the end, Jan refuses to make things simple or draw easy conclusions. This piece is more than a simple story of a son discovering the “truth” about his father. It’s more complex than that, raising more questions in its brief stage time than it answers and leaving the audience wondering whether they truly know their families or themselves. It’s a worthy production for the Under The Radar festival and shouldn’t be missed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston

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