|Performer and playwright Nicole Maxali as Lola Encar in “Forgetting the Details.” Photo © Mike Ricca|
At the beginning of Forgetting the Details, a one-woman show performed by actress-comedienne Nicole Maxali, she — narrating as a present-day version of herself — turns to the audience and asks: “Are memories enough when people and places are no longer there?” The show, which is featured as part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) at The White Box, continually asks this question throughout the next hour and a half, as Maxali takes us back to her childhood in San Francisco, where she was selflessly raised by her grandmother, or Lola, as it is called in Tagalog.
|Nicole Maxali, here as the play’s narrator, Nikki.|
Maxali deftly switches from character to character as she re-enacts her experiences growing up in a very Filipino, unusually American household. There’s Lola Encar, the eccentric but loving grandmother who raised her as her free-spirited artist-musician father Max whiled away the hours playing along to Jimi Hendrix records and smoking things that weren’t the “cigarette kind” in their basement. Then there’s Nikki, a past version of Maxali, who is every bit the opposite of what a “good” apo, or grandchild, should be (which is to say: she wasn’t a virginal, Tagalog-fluent, conservatively dressed young woman with a nursing degree). Through these characters, Maxali looks back at these snapshots in time with a careful, sensitive eye, taking us all on an emotional journey. For young Nikki, everything starts to change when she comes home one day to find the door locks changed, and Lola Encar frantically pleading to go to the police station. Soon, more confusing behavior occurs, and after a “hearing” test, the doctor confirms that it is early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, not only do Nikki and Max each have to cope with the pain that only a disease like Alzheimer’s can bring, but also re-evaluate their own lives, making sacrifices for the one person who sacrificed everything for them. This means having to prioritize family above all else — including their art. For Nikki, crumbling under pressure to be a “good” apo also means leaving her acting dreams on the back-burner.