Time keeps slipping. Life putters on and stumbling is the better part of trying to catch up. Watching it fall apart is where the audience comes to mind.
Boats Against The Current is a sarcastic walk through Alzheimer’s and dementia. Cleaving through the mind of Harrisson Morriss (John Neikirk), time and place present themselves as erratic figments while holding true for as long as they exist.
Several time periods present themselves along the last chunk of life. They scatter and add a disconnect to linearity, showing up the desperate grasping of situations as they unravel. With this displacement days fade in to fade out. Memories are playful and concrete as Daisy (Mandy Hieatt) serves as a voice to when/where things are lucid, but their relevance and realisation is awash in doubt. Again and again the refrain flows.
Slight frustration builds with each interaction in the real world as the family watches on and can do nothing to stop the deterioration. They can lead, they can prompt, they can do all they want, to no avail. It is hopeless, and they carry the anguish of seeing someone they love fall away without their own knowing.
Eleanor (Amber Frangos) is on the verge of tears each time Harrisson slips away or shows another sign of cognitive slacking. Sensitive, attentive, barely keeping it together really as her husband becomes less of where he was. Harrisson’s step-son, J.R. (Keifer Adkins), doesn’t crack until the end, and there the emotions find a release.
A stagehand spends most of intermission trying to tape a phone receiver to the underside of a crate. It keeps slinging down, crashing after a minute or two before another slick of tape hastily holds it up. Minutes before the start of intermission the phone itself lets out a sigh and falls as the lights turn up. Cue.
Floorboards creak throughout the night. Each step being another hairline crack in Harrisson’s mental coherency. Another squeak, another fracture in mind. Not at all part of the setup or design of the play proper, just something there as subtle nod of happenstance and flavour. A layer of peeling apart how the brain desperately tries to hold itself yet these splinters cannot stop making such noise.
The creaks underscore the unending loss of quiet and stillness with mental fatigue. Harrisson always seems busy of mind. Busy trying to keep up and keep face, or barely enough to... something. Remember?
Boats Against The Current is built with mirroring vignettes. Each one asking the question of reality, trying to construct a present from a vanishing past. Sense of being keeps being questioned in line with the world falling slowly away at the tip of the tongue. Sad with jabs of humour to claw back some semblance of keeping a chin up, drowning in the black.
Sitting next to packets of biscuits for later at the 1 March 2019 performance directed by Sommer Schoch at the Flashback Theater Black Box.
Reviewed on Friday, 8 March 2019