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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Final Week for Quantum’s Mnemonic

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Quantum Theatre shows are usually memorable, but this one’s about memory.

A scene from Mnemonic.

Mnemonic is an experimental 1999 work, originally devised by British troupe Complicite, that follows two stories that slightly intertwine. One’s about a man tracking down his lover, Alice, who’s suddenly fled to Europe to search for her long-lost father. The other’s about the mystery surrounding Ötzi, the 5,200-year-old “ice man” found frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.

It’s a strange sort of theater work: Alongside lots of manic stage business, with actors pushing each other around on wheeled furniture (likely to illustrate themes about the chaos of causality), there are frequent long pauses for scientists to speculate forensically on the life and fate of an anonymous man dead for millennia.

Admittedly, and as Robert Isenberg contends in his review for CP, Mnemonic is tendentious here and there. It’s hard to tell whether the play spends more time confusing you with odd narrative splices or hitting you over the head with obvious parallels between the two stories it tells.

Yet Mnemonic is ultimately rewarding. Its title theme, about objects we use to remember, plays out in especially poignant ways. Alice is drawn, as anyone would be, to objects her missing father owned — his shoes, a lighter — just as the archaeologist Spindler is fascinated by Ötzi’s few but beautifully crafted Neolithic possessions, including a copper axe. (It scarcely seems to matter to the characters, or to us, that one set of items is mass-manufactured, the other unique and painstakingly handcrafted.)

You might be left pondering why we invest so much emotions in mere talismans — not the least of which is Otzi’s own mummified body. And why is it so moving when such artifacts are broken?

Mnemonic’s run concludes with four more performances, 8 p.m. nightly tonight through Sunday. (Tomorrow night’s show includes a young-professionals happy hour.) Tickets are $18-46. The show is staged in a space in East Liberty’s Kirkwood Building.

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