The year is 2000.
The dot.com boom is at its peak and the Nokia is the cellphone of choice.
The election is on the horizon and hopefully a resolution for the Isreali-Palestinian conflict as well.
All of these changes - social, political, and cultural - and more come to a head during one family’s time together in IF I FORGET.
Victory Gardens’ Family Drama
As we take our seats and turn our attention to the stage, we’re greeted by the inside of a two-story home. Family photos adorn the walls. Bookshelves are lined with books and knick-knacks. And the worn, beige carpet makes us feel this house is lived-in, this is a family home.
Here the Fischer family - three siblings and their respective spouses - has gathered to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. They might not be the most religiously devout Jewish family, but their Jewish identity is rooted deep within each of them.
When middle brother and Jewish studies professor, Michael, is about to publish a book questioning the modern Jewish identity, it feels like a personal attack on the family as well as attacking the Jewish people as a whole. It adds fire to the flame of an already emotionally heightened family gathering just waiting for it all to explode.
Kitchen Sink of Conflicts
For this writer, the most compelling part of IF I FORGET is the many, many different values, ideas, and conflicts that form the Jewish identity and how this family unpacks it all. In addition to Michael’s provocative book, the family touches on social and personal influences as well.
They must deal with how politics affects them like the impending election and the Camp David Summit.
They must deal with each of their personal issues like Sharon’s affair with a married man, Michael’s daughter’s health, and Holly trying to launch her interior design business.
And finally, they must figure out issues that impact the entire family. How will they care for their ailing father? What will happen to the family store?
IF I FORGET is a dialogue heavy show as the family talks about all their problems in snippets and one on one conversations with each other. Because this play has so many issues and conflicts going on at once, without such an adept cast, it might have made for a confusing play without one through line.
But the entire cast keeps the right balance and pace talking about these issues in light, small talk conversations as well as ramping up to full-blown arguments. It feels like we’re able to touch on all these topics without the play being too heavy-handed. Their emotions never feel forced or out of place and every topic seems to come up naturally.
IF I FORGET is a show that explores conflicts that perhaps a broad number of families might face as well as ones that are particular to those in the Jewish community. If you’re interested in shows exploring cultures and family dramas with lots of explosive emotions, this show would be a great fit for you.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Devin de Mayo
Now through July 7, 2019
Tuesdays - Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm and 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
Victory Gardens Theater
2433 N Lincoln Ave.
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a media supervisor. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski