"At times, 'Forever' — Dael Orlandersmith’s new solo piece about growing up with a violent drunk of a mother — is like the film 'Precious,' only with songs by Patti Smith. You’ll either be shaken by the emotional violence or leave feeling guilty for not being affected...Art as therapy isn’t always gripping." Full Review
"Ms. Orlandersmith holds us in a taut, quiet spell for the 80-minute show...relates the grimmest details of her youth from the perspective of the accomplished writer and performer who transcended them. She can access the pain and the fury, and bring it alive for us with spellbinding immediacy." Full Review
"Orlandersmith implicitly asks: What if we used this opportunity to paint a realistic portrait of the dead, rather than a touched-up glamour shot? The result of this experiment is a mixed bag of compelling ambiguity and boring unprocessed emotion." Full Review
"Dael Orlandersmith's touching solo piece, 'Forever' is a warm, embracing presence; proof of being a survivor with an eye toward the future. Perhaps, many years from now, that future will involve a troubled soul visiting her grave site to connect with someone who helped shape his or her life." Full Review
"potent, wrenching...those allergic to poetic survivor solos might wonder if we need another yarn of escape and empowerment, but Orlandersmith’s cutting language and cool, patient delivery hold your attention. 'Forever' begins and ends in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery, and it reminds us that while corpses moulder in graveyards, fresh blossoms sprout there too." Full Review
"There are no new stories, so the fact that this is another tale of a mother daughter relationship that was horrible is not the problem. What is the problem is that the text is a tale, not an experience...Thus the show becomes a narrative, not a journey. What she intended as riveting ends up being interesting and little more." Full Review
"What’s exceptional is the way she weaves her material into a compelling narrative, embracing the audience in her memories...The performer speaks directly to the audience in the first person, now and then briefly changing voices to suggest someone else. It’s a straightforward performance that, apart from the honesty with which she conveys her feelings, avoids the kind of tour de force versatility such works often count on." Full Review
"The often riveting autobiographical solo play is intense, and it is very bitter. 'Forever,' which revisits material Orlandersmith explored in earlier works, makes an attempt at understanding, and even forgiving, the author's mother, but it seems formulaic rather than heartfelt. The power of the evening is in its fury." Full Review
"Her visit to the French capital, specifically to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, frames this intense, poetic 85-minute evening, which interweaves personal and artistic lineages...The anger, however authentic, can get so relentless that it blunts some of the piece’s emotional impact." Full Review
for a previous production "Ms. Orlandersmith has a gift for raw immediacy. At a recent performance, while she described the sexual assault (in graphic and emotional detail), the theater fell almost as silent as a tomb. Then she broke the tension gradually, with pinpoint timing...First and foremost, Ms. Orlandersmith is a poet, and her language sings, even when it insists on calling itself prose." Full Review
for a previous production "It's the ghost of Beula, her manipulative, abusive, alcoholic mother that is at the dark heart of this searing and unflinching work. Calling it a performance almost diminishes Orlandersmith's artistry as it's as honest and revelatory expression of personal storytelling as you're likely to see outside of a therapist's office. Though the redemptive ending seems underwritten and pat, you'll likely not see anything as gut-wrenching, heartbreaking and furious on stage this year." Full Review
for a previous production ""Forever", written, embodied, and performed by Dael Orlandersmith is hauntingly emotional, a direct, transfixing spoken memoir...Director Neel Keller worked closely with Orlandersmith to develop Forever, which commands full attention throughout. The writer's brutal description and intimate delivery of the horrific rape she endured is tragic and difficult. That this actor is able to bring such a performance night after night, digging deeply through her heart and soul, is staggering." Full Review
for a previous production "Playwright-poet Dael Orlandersmith presents a evocative performance that’s both a gripping autobiography and also a searing description of the pain and suffering that can either destroy or give rise to transcendent art. Here’s a play that works on the level of description of personal pain and loss, while also hinting at the occasional irrationality of our own feelings and reactions...packs a surprising emotional wallop, and powerfully describes the process of transforming fury into art." Full Review
for a previous production "Dael Orlandersmith's searching, eventually tiresome solo show...Neel Keller's flowing direction draws an unadorned, unremitting performance from Orlandersmith but can't move the piece off its pedestal. Still, on her search, Orlandersmith, by giving us so much of herself, exorcises ghosts and points the way to solace. "I wonder if we, any of us, ever get it right," she asks, as family and art fuse to be with her forever." Full Review
for a previous production "Her mother has been dead more than 20 years. Hasn’t Orlandersmith, after winning an Obie and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, exorcised the demons of her past? No. Neither Orlandersmith nor her director here, Neel Keller, is interested in moving past or making light of pain, or sparing their audience the discomfort of witnessing it. “Forever” derives much of its power from the anger Orlandersmith carries and unflinchingly expresses." Full Review
for a previous production "Her tales of frustration, anger, resentment, despair, and remorse, presented in such a one-sided way, can start to seem whiny. The show’s simplistic framework doesn’t flow neatly with the urban New York drama that Forever becomes...But "Forever"’s riveting key scenes more than make up for any lack of fluidity...As a sustained act of highly personalized storytelling, "Forever" lulls, surprises, horrifies, unsettles — and in the end, still leaves room for hope." Full Review
for a previous production "Orlandersmith, who has written several solo plays, treads the jagged edge of memory, although the memories being shared here are anything but nostalgic. Early on, she throws a scratchy version of The Doors' "Light My Fire" onto a phonograph. Fittingly, Orlandersmith then spends a substantial portion of the ensuing 90 minutes trying to burn the place down. It's not quite there though, making "Forever" more glowing embers than scorched earth." Full Review
for a previous production "Orlandersmith’s brilliance with her language and her comfort as a performer draw one deeply into the minute details of this engrossing work. After all, we each understand the role of family and the memories and thoughts that have formed us and continue to color our lives no matter how old we are. Orlandersmith has been willing to share some of the deepest, darkest and most revealing of those moments in a most intriguing and rewarding manner." Full Review
for a previous production "A portrait at once elegiac and angry, lyrical and recriminatory and rife with the kind of love-hate paradoxes that define any filial relationship but are here represented in extremis...Orlandersmith’s intention, she says at one point, was to finally write something with “naked, gut-honest” candor...and in the harrowing, very personal and unflinchingly courageous journey described in "Forever", she achieves it." Full Review
for a previous production "In the hands of Orlandersmith and director Neel Keller, “Forever” is not a theatrical blog in which the writer-actor dumps her emotional trash and leaves no feeling unexpressed. Rather, “Forever” is nimbly crafted and performed without adornment or excess. Orlandersmith’s touch, both in writing and performing, is subtle and seems to simply flow as an honest, unaffected story." Full Review
for a previous production "Dael Orlandersmith's exhumation of her mother has its moments of soul-chilling revelation. In the program she states, "it's this hybrid of fact, and also [my] impression of what happened." The result is 90 minutes of damnation seasoned with a bit of praise for the intellectual gifts her mother gave her...She gives us her pain in an almost unremitting howl. It is unremitting, it is graphic, it is acrid...The question for you, the potential audience, is do you really want to take it on?" Full Review
for a previous production "It’s old-fashioned storytelling, the campfire kind...And it’s powerful, poetic storytelling, the kind that creeps up on you slowly and stays with you...As directed by Neel Keller, Orlandersmith’s performance is unfussy. Her words speak for themselves. The words are potent, the sentences often lyrical...Forever demonstrates the power of solo pieces when done well." Full Review
See it if you want to hear a very personal story from a master theatrical storyteller.
Don't see it if you're expecting perfection. The performance is a little stilted, the stories don't add up to enough.
See it if you like one-person shows; what you really want from the theater is intimacy; if you want to hear a real story of hardship and triumph.
Don't see it if you want more than one woman on a stage as your idea of a show.
See it if A tour de force. Deeply affecting. I was with her every second. What an amazing performance! What a life!
Don't see it if Some of the events of her life were very graphic and deeply disturbing.
See it if you like autobiographical solo shows about really tough subject matter, done in a compelling way by someone with real stage presence
Don't see it if you want an easy evening of laughs, or are uncomfortable with someone who really hates her mother, for very good reasons.
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