By Mehr Gunawardena
I have never seen anything quite like this before. The physical performance was encapsulating and forceful while, at the same time, gentle and malleable. It was like a cloud. Beautiful and meaningful, but also fleeting and intangible.
“Inheritance: A Litany” brought us into Janis Brenner’s mind, and explored her thoughts and emotions about her parents. She told us what she inherited from them—genetics, possessions and habits—without really using her voice. She communicated through her movement, and filled the stage with nostalgia, hope and fear. Her air of calm and comfort was infectious, and created intimacy. The nuances of the script together with the movements and audio were deliberate and impactful. She chose to show certain life moments and narrate others, illustrating how she was molded by her parents. Her performance left me yearning for more. Forty minutes was not enough, and I felt that Ms. Brenner had more to give.
The litany mirrored the actions of a daughter helping her mother, who may have Alzheimer’s disease, remember. It was also a way for Ms. Brenner to remember and show her gratitude for all that her parents left her. The various dance styles and the echoing of those movements illuminated how some things will never change. She got her giggling from her mother, and her sarcasm from her father. She will always be her parents’ child, and they continue to affect her experiences in life and how she perceives them.
Ms. Brenner beautifully managed her props, without allowing the production to become messy and claustrophobic. I loved how one of her props made her able to fly. Her interaction with the audience was witty and made us laugh. Ms. Brenner made our experience light yet emotional. As soon as the performance was over, I wanted to call my parents. To hear their voices and remember all they have given me. I felt nostalgic and warm. Janis Brenner showed us how we inherit colors and strokes from our parents. But how we implement those colors and strokes is what makes us individual pieces of art.
“Inheritance: A Litany”
Written and Performed by Janis Brenner
Oct. 4 at 7:30pm, Oct. 11 at 7:30pm, Nov. 3 at 2:00pm
Music: Jerome Begin
Performance Coach: Risa Steinberg
Lighting Design: Mitchell Bogard
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
MEHR GUNAWARDENA is a writer from Sri Lanka who pursued her education and ambition in the United States. During her time at Clark University, she began experimenting with form and structure to make her writing as accessible as possible to all readers, while keeping true to her voice. She enjoys writing poetry and other fictional pieces with political and societal nuances, and is therefore drawn towards art with similar intentions.