In moving ‘Forever,’ restless ghosts haunt Weston’s Other Stage

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC
Dael Orlandersmith

Orlandersmith visits a cemetery, home to many artists. Photos by Tim Fort

Actress, poet and playwright Dael Orlandersmith returns to the Weston Playhouse Other Stage with  Forever, an angry eulogy to the spirit of her abusive mother. It is a festering wound of a play that takes no prisoners in its unvarnished, raw honest language and its rich, telling performance.

Late in this short evening (a monologue that clocks in at about 90 minutes, without intermission), Orlandersmith encounters a morgue attendant and asks him whether the place ever frightens him. “The dead can’t do nothing to you,” he tells her. “It’s the living you’ve got to look out for.” But throughout the evening, as we travel from Paris to Harlem and back to Paris again, we learn that he is only half right: Yes, you need to watch out for the living but you also need to be wary of the dead who can pursue us in our memories and who continue to shape our lives long after they have left us.


‘The play explores who we are and who we think we are.’

The play is a rich, robust battle of words — a semi-autobiographical play that explores family, the one we are born into and the one we choose. Orlandersmith has chosen for her spiritual family the denizens of Pere Lacaise cemetery in Paris, the last resting place so many artists that inspired her during her troubled childhood — Balzac, Chopin, Modigliani, Collette, Edith Piaf, Richard Wright and Jim Morrison. She communicates with them on her pilgrimage to Paris, but she is continuously haunted by the voice of her alcoholic, abusive mother

Orlandersmith recounts the beatings and verbal abuse of her Harlem youth, and her quest for something better. The evening explores who we are and who we think we are; it often explodes in anger — ugly and cathartic, rich and rewarding — and it is not for the faint of heart or for those looking for an evening of light entertainment.

It is powerful and unflinching in its anger, and neither Orlandersmith nor Director Steve Stettler spare the audience through the moments of discomfort. The evening is not tempered by misplaced humor or hope until the final minutes in the cemetery when Orlandersmith spies a young face she barely recognizes — the person who introduced her to art, music, literature — and she is able to have a revealing moment of communion.


The set is visually stark, natural and organic.

Visually, Forever is simple and stark. Brian Dudkiewicz’s set is natural and organic; Lighting Designer Cory Pattak shows how flexible the small theater can be; Sound Designer Adam Phallen never overwhelms us with either words or music; Costume Designer Kaye Voyce clads Orlandersmith appropriately in black.

While the subject matter is very adult and the language might offend some, Dael Orlandersmith is a national treasure. Any lover of language and theater needs to experience her live onstage; it’s a memory you will carry with you forever.

Forever continues through Sunday, July 31 at the Weston Playhouse Other Stage, Weston Rod and Gun Club, 4352 Vt Route 11, Weston. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees are Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets call 802-824-5288 or click here. For more information, call click here.

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About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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