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A CurtainUp Review

Instructions For Forgetting
By Amanda Cooper

Yeah, yeah, I'll tell you about the whale
--- Instructions for Forgetting
There are less than a handful of moments when Tim Etchells, the solo performer in Instructions for Forgetting, gets up from his seat. These moments, usually while the audience is engaged by a video, are a case of a leg stretch for Etchells, or perhaps a moment to talk to the on-stage technician.

Part storytelling, part videotelling, this performance piece is framed by Etchells' process of asking friends to send him stories and and videotapes. His requirement was for the stories to be true but without any limit as to topics. request was for things that are true For the videoss, the way he put it: t "Don't make me anything special - send what you have. . .I'm sure that whatever you choose is bound to be right."

Each performance begins and ends with Etchell explaining his project. From his table and chair, set amid three televisions, he very purposefully reads into his positioned microphone. The variety of stories and video images that follow give us snapshots of lives that end up creating a synthesis of society. Emotions resonate, even repeat.

Though the stories change, all have an element of desperation. Even though there are authors who have asked to remain anonymous, they are obviously still compelled to participate in this story telling process.

The presentation is set up so that there are times when a video may play in loop on all the screens while Etchells narrates; at other times there's only Etchell's voice or only a video. Occasionally, Etchells talks over unrelated, multiple videos, either in fast forward or slow motion. He is un-phased, though often amused by his digital surroundings, especially if they are making their second or third appearance.

What's uncanny about all this is how a video report on an attempt to discard a dead whale with half a ton of TNT can seem connected to the various medical experiments someone has participated in for money. But there is no dialogue for us to get stuck inside, and no obtuse characters or confusing moments of physicality either. Only clear air that allows our minds to take the content and run.

The show works because its simplicity shows us the never-ending complexity of everything. Granted, this type of audience freedom for over an hour and a half without an intermission does make for some attention deficit moments, but hey, why not go with it. Find Etchells after the show and tell him a story of your own.
Instructions for Forgetting
Written and Performed by Tim Etchells
Created in Collaboration with Richard Lowdon (Design) and Hugo Glendinning (Video)
On Stage Technician: Vlatka Horvat
Lighting Design: Richard Lowdon
Running Time One Hour, Forty minutes with no intermission
Presented by PS 122 at Theatre for the New City, 155 First Avenue (9th/10th Streets) or 212-477-5288
Thurs-Sun January 8-11, Wed-Thurs Jan 14-15, and Wed-Sun Jan 21-25 at 7:30PM
Tickets are $20
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on January 8, 2004 performance

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