Picking out the perfect stuffed animal. Sun Park Drive, or was it Sun Park Road? A road trip with thirty participants. The color of an ex-lover’s eyes. The sound of a fork as it hits the plate, missing the peas. A swan: alive or concrete? Snow.
“We are the products of our experiences—most of which we don’t even remember,” says one character (real or recorded?) to start Pivot Arts’ “The Memory Tour.” The Tour is a site-specific, interactive, interdisciplinary, multimedia “performance experience,” complete with an app to download to your phone prior to showtime, buzzwords and phrases that nearly always spell chaos or catastrophe for the presenting company.
However, with its arresting installations by Matthew York that leave behind only the tantalizing fragrance of something almost retrieved from the natatorium of the mind, “The Memory Tour” (directed by Julieanne Ehre with writing by Isaac Gomez, Brett Neveu and Tanya Palmer) does more than animate the lives of others, real or fictional. In a piece of remarkable magic, it conjures up your own past.
It would be impossible to say how it does so. Yet “The Memory Tour” is perfectly transparent about its methods as it walks audience members through its labyrinth, categorizing memory into kinds (habitual, semantic, recollective), engaging the senses (the cool and stickless texture, the simultaneously edible and repellent scent of Play-Doh), inviting participants to write and speak in addition to observing. The epiphanies it evokes are sometimes quiet (We didn’t eat ground beef that day), sometimes bitter (You weren’t there), sometimes devastating (In fact none of us have ever been present to those who needed us most). They are always true and also always wrong.
Embodied by a spare cast of six, each of whom hit the blue note of familiarity and strangeness in a space that is your best friend’s house, the wilderness, your workplace, a psych ward, “The Memory Tour” is an experience to be relished multiple times if possible—if not in body, at least in mind. (Irene Hsiao)
Pivot Arts, 5252 North Broadway, pivotarts.com, $22. Through October 9.