San Francisco Playhouse Presents I WAS RIGHT HERE Review — A Train Ride Down Memory Lane

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The screen is black, and the train bells ring, signaling that a train is on its way to the station. The announcer on the speakers lists off all these places the train will be going for the day. After his spiel, the lights come on and we see Julia sitting comfortably in an aisle seat. She breaks the fourth wall and starts talking aloud about the man sitting across from her. He’s heartbroken, she says, his head is down. 

San Francisco Playhouse I WAS RIGHT HERE
San Francisco Playhouse I WAS RIGHT HERE

She describes it as like watching a movie about his heartbreak. She recognizes that if either of them turns they would see each other, but if they look straight ahead they won’t acknowledge each other at all. After saying this, she looks straight ahead, not looking at the man anymore, but looking at you. Yes, you, the viewer.

Later, the announcer announces a particular stop, and it’s then she gets up and sees a memory. She sees her child self in the backseat of a car, was it a four-door or three-door? She doesn’t remember exactly, but she knows she was in there. Her mom and this woman were in the front seat. At one point, they both get out of the car and leave Julia behind without realizing it. Little Julia in the memory begins to panic, and so does grown-up Julia in the present. They’re coming back for her, right?

Eventually, the woman comes back and, surprised, exclaims that she forgot Julia was even in the backseat. The woman continues to say that Julia should have said something, and this causes Julia to question herself: 

“Why didn’t I say something? Why did you forget me? I wasn’t invisible. I was right here in the back seat. I was right here.”

I Was Right Here Journeys Through Nostalgia 

“I wonder if our floating outside selves could look across this inside world and know each other in a way that our inside selves sitting across the aisle never could.”

On her way to visit her almost 98-year-old mother with increasing dementia, Julia Brothers encounters memories at each train stop, some with joy, and some with sadness. At one point she imagines herself in a room full of photos and looking for her memories and connecting them together to see what really happened, and to make sure she’s not making it up. Through the recounting of memories, she remembers a stark invisibleness to her character; moments in her life where she felt like no one could see her or cared to see her. This one-woman-show seamlessly mixes her recollections and the idea of feeling visible.

I Was Right Here is like hearing a contemporary nonfiction book being read out loud. Brothers impeccable writing shows through her expressive acting as she glides across the stage. Although it’s just her on the stage, she has no trouble taking up room. The lighting changes with her facial expressions, giving you an idea of the gravity of the memory she’s seeing. In between each memory, the announcer’s voice rings out the speakers saying where the next stop is, reminding you that she is still on a train while these memories are passing through. 

San Francisco Playhouse I WAS RIGHT HERE
San Francisco Playhouse I WAS RIGHT HERE
San Francisco Playhouse I WAS RIGHT HERE

Brothers recounts significant moments in her life through descriptive detail, and how these memories, or the lack thereof, have impacted her psyche. She tries to remember these moments to the best of her ability, but what does she do when she can’t remember everything? What if she forgets them, like how that woman forgot she was in the back seat of the car?

If you’re a fan of interesting biographical monologues, this is perfect for you. However, if you are more into action-packed productions, this won’t be your cup of tea. I Was Right Here is all about immersing in the very personal past of Julia Brothers as she gives a performance that will be very hard to forget.

Julia Brothers gives us food for thought as she traverses through her own memories:

“I wonder who you’ve forgotten, or who’s forgotten you.”

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Cast:

Julia Brothers

When:

Through April 17th

Where:

On-Demand

Creative Team:

Writer: Julia Brothers
Director: Padraic Lillis
Producers: Betty & Cliff Nakamoto

Tickets:

$15+
For tickets visit the San Francisco Playhouse website
Photos courtesy of San Francisco Playhouse

Breanna Henry

About the Author: Breanna Henry

Almost 10 years ago Breanna sat in her tiny room she shared with her younger sister in Houston, Texas writing songs, stories, and poems on the rough carpet. She mimicked songs she heard on the radio and imitated books she's read from the Scholastic Book Fair. By fifth grade, she knew creative writing would soon be her passion. Now a sophomore at Loyola University New Orleans, she has published works on her university's newspaper, literary journal, and on her own blog. When she's not writing and working towards her Mass Communication and English Writing degree, she's watching Criminal Minds re-runs, doing photoshoots with friends, and dancing wildly in her dorm room while music blasts through her speakers.

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