Theater, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
Photograph: Harry Hurlock Souvenir

Souvenir. Abrons Arts Center (see Off-Off Broadway). Written and performed by Bush Moukarzel. Directed by Ben Kidd. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.

Souvenir: in brief

English writer-performer Bush Moukarzel uses Marcel Proust's voluminous Remembrance of Things Past as the inspiration for a much shorter experimental piece about chronology, love and memory. Ben Kidd directs.

Souvenir: theater review by Helen Shaw

Bush Moukarzel's Souvenir, the personable Londoner's frantic riff on Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, has beautiful things all through it. It's got Moukarzel fixing his shadow across a board of glowing nite-lite stars; it's got a mournful Bruce Springstein tune played on harmonium; it's got a profusion of cardboard boxes that disgorge full tea mugs, a ringing telephone, a toy sea-side scene complete with umbrella. In fact, it displays all the physical theater's best (and most used) bibelots at once, and the dramaturgical shelf sometimes groans under their weight.

A monologue masquerading as memoir, Souvenir is shot with glittering remnants of its source (Albertine is still a slippery, jealousy-inspiring element), as well as Moukarzel's own confessions of theatrical doubt. Is work more important than friendship? Is love more important that pride? These are familiar, serious, yes—Proustian questions. But this is a Remembrance with ADD. This Marcel's reminiscences are stimulated not by tasting a madeleine but by cramming the little pastries, fistfuls at a time, into his mouth. Moukarzel and director Ben Kidd show a similar hastiness with moments, images, moods, jokes. This is that rare show that needs to relax, to be a little longer, to dwell.

Still, the sixty minutes pass pleasantly. In his extraordinary determination to be liked, Moukarzel will brook no opposition, winking at us (he hat-tips the burgers at the Parker Meridien hotel) and Proust's own biography while winning our affection. The piece is grainy, made up as it is of too many disconnected elements. But luckily Moukarzel can dissolve these sands in his palpable charm; his sweetness, at last, is an insistent force, boundless as the sea.—Theater review by Helen Shaw

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