The Recollection Collection from Freshwater Theatre: American Vignettes

by Adam M. Schenck

Have you ever been sitting there in the audience, Live Theatre Goer, and wondered, “Why are there so few people here and so many people at home watching television?” Well, this critic has had that thought, and let me say that I can’t recall having a solid belly laugh at a live theatrical performance until The Recollection Collection.

This production is a series of six one-act plays on a sparse stage featuring six young actors and actresses. The scenes work much like short stories or vignettes, and move from elegiac tragedy to slapstick comedy. Memory and its variegated effects on people is the unifying theme, but the variety of the situations made this a quick (70 minutes, to be exact) and satisfying evening.

Television’s standard situational comedy, or sitcom, is 22 minutes long excluding advertisements, and typically uses recurring character traits and gags to create humor. The format of the six vignettes here is quite similar to the sitcom, except for being shorter and less predictable.

My personal favorite was “For Good,” with John Leaf and Bailey Murphy portraying Josh and Maggie, respectively, a young couple whose possible future was cut short by an accident. Maggie returns as a sassy Millennial-generation ghost, goading Josh to both move on and remember her memory.

Come to think of it, one of the pleasures of this performance is comparing the six scenes. None make overt social criticism, and none have escaped my memory. All the scenes have a beautiful moment of realization, which makes the scenes true to the definition of “vignette,” which is an impressionistic scene that focuses on a singular moment or impression.

Perhaps you’ll identify closely with one of the scenes as my writing partner, Rebecca, and I did. In “One, Three, Two” a true numbers man has succumbed to the information glut of modern life. “I have four phone numbers and a pager,” the accountant Jake (John Leaf) says. Unable to remember numbers, he has lost his work and his self-worth. His wife, Heather (Sierra Schermerhorn), makes believable the swing from scolding to supportive talk therapist only those in a long-term relationship will recognize. This vignette was a little too close to home for these two writers.

Should you attend The Recollection Collection in the cultural haven that is Northeast Minneapolis, you will find edification with these stories, and maybe even identification. The scenarios vary enough for everyone to see a bit of themselves on the stage.

While watching another sitcom will make you even more alienated by the state of our culture, this production will give you hope for the future. The formulaic storytelling forms projected onto our screens can come alive, remade by yet another generation said to be, but clearly not, ne’er-do-wells.

The Freshwater Theatre’s production of The Recollection Collection is at Nimbus Theatre, 1517 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis 55413. You can see this play at 7:30 p.m. on March 30, April 3, 5, and 8. Consult <freshwatertheatre.com> for more information.

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