My Mind Is Like an Open Meadow
nytheatre.com review by Adam R. Burnett
August 3, 2012
We all want very desperately to share our stories in a forum with others. Whether over whiskey or coffee and milk, our inner monologue is always on the verge of breaking out and exposing too much. We keep this at bay out of respect for others, for not every event reveals meaning and not every anecdote is worth telling. Unfortunately, we are caught in a generation of over-sharers (think Lena Dunham, of the indie breakout film Tiny Furniture), who skip abstraction and complexity in attempt to garner quick and easy sympathy for all the things they are not doing.
This is the central downfall of My Mind is Like an Open Meadow, from Portland, Oregon's Hand2Mouth, which has been seen at various stages throughout New York with previous productions. In My Mind… writer/performer Erin Leddy tackles the memories of her grandmother who lived and worked as an actress in New York City in the '60's. Leddy supposedly lived with her grandmother for one year in 2001 and recorded her memories, life lessons, and poetic revelations.
We spend a static hour with Leddy and the recorded voice of her grandmother, Sarah. (The stage is just as much Sarah's as it is Leddy's.) We listen to some songs Leddy has written, loosely based on some phrases Sarah has said, and Leddy performs her grandmother's monologue in accompaniment to some modern dance movements.
Sound designer Casi Pacilio is the highlight of the production here, with a richly layered soundscape that never misses a beat. Scenic designer Christopher Kuhl uses the almost impossibly small space of 59E59 Theater C to its capacity and the final scenic moment is quite gorgeous.
Leddy's grandmother had insightful things to say about loss, the souls of our loved ones who have passed on and the failure of memory, but ultimately the piece quickly becomes emotionally manipulative and banks itself on the audience's capacity to admire preciousness over purposefulness.
On a related note, I am pleased to see original work from outside of New York premiere in the city and separate itself from the slew of festivals occurring throughout the summer. It's important for audiences and theatre makers to recognize the work of companies like Hand2Mouth, who have created models to produce and promote original work regionally instead of the mind-numbing practice of most regional companies who only produce works that have "successfully" premiered on or off-Broadway. This model of producing new work is sustaining companies like Hand2Mouth in cities across America, in Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Austin, and beyond. And this is direly important to recognize.