These Old Shoes

By REBECCA HALAT and ADAM SCHENCK.

Time: is it a theme or a medium? The phenomenon of people living to unforeseen old age hasn’t been seen since biblical times, and old age is definitely ripe for investigation through the theatrical arts.

"These Old Shoes" at the Illusion Theater.

“These Old Shoes” at the Illusion Theater.

Anyone who has visited an elder family member in an “old folks’ home,” or whatever the euphemism of art has become, knows that the people therein hold worlds of experience. While sadly, some of our elderly loved ones lose their ability to recognize their present situation and sometimes their past, there are still some who are able to sharply recall their lives and share their stories with younger generations.

From the experiences of our elders, if we listen, we learn that human emotion loses no depth with age. Narrative can transport and help us understand the future we all face—for time is no mere theme; it is the medium of life itself.  In These Old Shoes, Director Diogo Lopes and dramaturge Gemma Irish create a scenario whereby we see our own selves, should we live that long—it is an emotional, not intellectual, experience.

This ensemble of actors, sans set, creates new scenes and situations with their own bodies.  You may have seen The Notebook, but that was sappy. You have heard of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but blanched at the thousands of pages. For touching, but certainly not saccharine, see These Old Shoes, and see in a mere hour and fifteen minutes how aging is nothing to be feared; it is time that makes us reckon the lives we have lived.

An exploration of connection, memory, and reconnection, Transatlantic Love Affair’s production These Old Shoes offers both an intriguing physical performance and a touchingly poignant emotional exploration.  The ensemble cast transitions between the main setting of a retirement community and the lives and careers of its aging inhabitants through one character’s transition from his home of several decades to a new home of peers. The stories he shares during this process help to reestablish his relationship with his granddaughter.

The limited set must not fool the viewer—the stage is, in fact, filled with potential through the skilled physical presence of the actors.  Creating scenery and sound effects from their bodies, the lack of props allowed the viewer to focus on the performance.  While the characters travelled back and forth from their memories to present day, their stories show the importance of memories—creating good ones, and accepting the bad ones as inevitable, but not life-ending.

A commendable performance from a young theater company, These Old Shoes is well worth your ticket price.

These Old Shoes, part of the tenth annual Lights Up! Series, produced by Transatlantic Love Affair and conceived and directed by Diogo Lopes, runs January 29-February 14 2015 at the Illusion Theater (in the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts), 528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. Tickets $17-25 at www.illusiontheater.org or by calling 612-339-4944.

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