Please do not be confused: Pat Kinevane’s solo show “Forgotten” is not about Japan, or the Japanese. Or anything Asian, which you probably wouldn’t expect anyway from a show staged at the Irish Arts Center and imported from Dublin’s Fishamble Theater. Still, be sure to remember there’s nothing remotely Eastern about the story. This will help you ignore the kimonos, the martial-artsy modern dance transitions, much of the decor and the giant red Rising Sun-like spotlight on the backdrop, and thus make some sense of the play, a task that has spectacularly eluded helmer Jim Culleton.
Nearly naked and radiating both confidence and coconut-scented bronzer, Kinevane takes the stage with surprising force. The authority with which he does everything from spit-polishing the set to applying kabuki makeup gives the show its biggest strength and enables you to hang on for long enough to hear his whole story.
That story involves four characters — two men, two women — all confined to various nursing homes and recalling the ups and downs of their intertwined lives. And OK, there is a brief moment in which a character sings a song about being a geisha girl and mentions that the Japanese respect their elders. But it’s so fleeting that to arrange the whole Irish spectacle around it feels bonkers.
Other things seem crazy in a good way, though, like Kinevane’s weird, mostly unclad performance, which communicates solely through carriage and intonation the characters of two very distinct old ladies. He’s also not shy about flirting with the audience, which brings some warmth to a show that could seem merely cold and confusing.
Set design is minimal and uncredited; costumes also minimal but credited to Monica Ennis, who drapes Kinevane in keeping with the inscrutable theme. Piece never wears out its welcome, but the baffling production obfuscates the finer points of the characters’ relationships, which are delicately fleshed out in Kinevane’s brief script.