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Freshly Fallen Snow at Chicago Dramatists | Theater review

M.E.H. Lewis’s new drama about a neuroscientist’s efforts to selectively remove bad memories is itself full of holes.

Photograph: courtesy of Chicago Dramatists
Kirsten D'Aurelio and Ann Whitney in Freshly Fallen Snow at Chicago Dramatists

If a malignant tumor can be removed from the body, why shouldn’t a malignant memory be excised from the mind? This question drives neuroscientist Jane’s research, testing a drug that prevents bad memories from reconsolidating when negative stimulus is introduced. M.E.H. Lewis’s new drama seeks to examine the influence that recollections have on the psyche, coming to the obvious conclusion that it’s important to remember things.

Jane (Kirsten D’Aurelio) wants the drug made so that she can remove her mother’s memories of the 1945 bombing of Dresden. While Jane’s intentions are noble, her methods don’t make much sense. To receive military funding, she takes on a new test subject, an Iraq War veteran suffering from intense PTSD. The problem is that Jane is fighting for something no one desires: A.J. (Kelly O’Sullivan) doesn’t want her memories erased, and neither does Jane’s mother (a touching Ann Whitney). Throughout the play, there’s never an indication the drug would achieve anything positive. Jane tells A.J. the treatment has worked in other patients, but we never see these success stories.

Lewis’s plot relies on an audience that doesn’t ask questions. Why can’t the military find a test subject who actually wants the procedure? Why would A.J. be forced to undergo an experimental drug treatment rather than just being sent to therapy? Despite the sharp ensemble, it’s difficult to connect with material that has so many holes in its logic.