Reverberations: intermittent seismic activity

Reverberations, a site-specific work by Brian Linds, is playing at Presentation House.

In Reverberations, Brian Linds explores his family history.

One of the sections in Reverberations, an installation/performance piece by Brian Linds, knocked me out.

In Reverberations, Linds, who has worked primarily as a sound designer for the past several years, explores his family history through five pieces that are all set up in their own spaces in Presentation House. Every unit has a significant sound component. Groups of up to 20 audience members each start in different rooms and move from space to space.

Discovery is a big part of this experience so, if you already know that you want to see Reverberations, don’t read any further.

The content of some of the units is predictable. In a long passage that we listen to on headphones while sitting in an improvised rec room and munching pretzels—as if we’re attending a pre-teen party—we hear how the adolescent Linds was humiliated by his friends as he tried to negotiate a crush. The story is moderately touching, but adolescent betrayal is familiar territory and nothing about the artistic vocabulary, which includes home movies, is particularly arresting.

Another couple of units have a similarly low level of impact. In one of them, Victor Mariano embodies Linds’s paternal grandfather, then his father, and we hear the story of the Linds family’s immigration to Canada. Every family’s history is fascinating, of course—but mostly to that family. And, although Mariano moves elegantly—and movement is a big part of the vocabulary of this unit—I wasn’t formally engaged: under Mindy Parfitt’s direction, Ustare uses tiny figurines to act out a scene, for instance, but I’ve seen that done many times and to much better effect.

But there’s one section of Reverberations that slapped me hard. Linds’s mother had Alzheimer’s and, in a passage that could easily stand on its own as a short play, we experience her disorientation as if from the inside.

Performer Jan Wood stands in the performance space, staring at the telephone receiver in her hand. A disembodied voice describes what’s going on: “She is looking at it. She thinks, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’” The woman remembers a phone number and tries to dial it. But she can’t get through. This incomprehension is sustained for a daringly long time. And, evoked with acute simplicity, the accompanying isolation and dull awareness that something very bad is going on are unnerving.

For me, this is by far the best element in Reverberations and it speaks to the potential of Linds’s artistic capacity.

Overall, I found Reverberations unfocused: sometimes we’re with Linds, sometimes with his mom or dad or grandfather. But this approach feels scattered and often superficial. I was most engaged—riveted, really—when Linds concentrated on his most compelling subject, his mom, and went deep with her.

REVERBERATIONS By Brian Linds. Directed by Mindy Parfitt. Co-produced by Presentation House Theatre and Reverberations Collective in association with Mortal Coil Performance. At Presentation House Theatre on Thursday, March 7. Continues until March 17. Tickets.

 

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Comments

  1. I will say that it was incredibly comforting and a relief to see a piece in Vancouver so lovingly Jewish. I feel isolated from the sensibilities of my tribe most of the time and it brought ao much warmth and sadness and joy to my heart to be immersed in a Jewish family for a little while.

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