Contributing Critic - New York City
We never know what things in life are going to remind us of those we’ve lost. Sometimes it’s something as simple as an old song, a comment made by a friend, or a dentless pillow on the other side of the bed. Often times these little reminders come without warning and bring up mixed feelings of sadness and joy, leaving us to look up at the sky and quietly whisper “I see what you did there.” I think we all, at one time or another have had a little conversation with someone that has passed on, some longer and more emotional than others. It’s a natural human desire to want to still feel connected to that other person. Often these moments are extremely personal and filled with thoughts and emotions that we would rather not be seen by anyone else. Though, in Judy Frank’s “Notes to Wherever” that’s exactly what she does and the results are breathtaking.
Frank invites us to listen in on a conversation she’s having between her and her late husband, Mike. There is no grand spectacle, no dramatic declarations, not even any other characters, just her and her letters to her husband. This is theatre at its most honest and it was truly beautiful to see. Frank transitioned between stories seamlessly and never lingered on the somber moments any longer than necessary. While the overall subject matter is tear-jerking, to say the least, Frank managed to throw many moments of humor that caught the tears before they made it to my chin.
Focusing only briefly on the moments before and the moment of her husband’s passing, “Notes to Wherever” focuses primarily on the moments after. It discusses those moments when, for no reason at all, those we have lost creep back in to our minds and the unfortunate truth that grief never really goes away, it simply changes. This is where “Notes to Wherever” really hit me, in discussing how to manage the changes. Anyone that has dealt with a loss or watched someone deal with it, knows this feeling.
While the whole performance was a wonderful celebration of life and life after, there were a few moments that stuck with me well after the curtain closed. One of these being Frank reciting the poem “Ithaka” by C.P Cavafy. It was not only a fabulous reading, but the poem and its themes of enjoying the journey and what happens when that journey ends parallels so nicely with the themes of “Notes to Wherever” that the whole theater buzzed silently. Another moment that was particularly powerful was the speech we here given by the voice of Mike’s little bear that he kept with him. The speech was written by Frank and read at Mike’s funeral by a friend of theirs and brings a surprisingly light hearted yet still very somber moment to the show and is one of its best.
It is very clear that Frank and her husband had the kind of love that we all hope to find in life and it was wonderful to see a show were that love was expressed so beautifully. “Notes to Wherever” is wonderful show for anyone who has struggled with loss as well as anyone who simply wants to hear a story about two people who loved each other unconditionally. It’s theatre at its most honest and warmed my heart all the way through.
“Notes to Wherever” was written and performed by Judy Frank and directed by Katheryn Markey.
The stage manager is Kellie McMenemon and it features lighting design by David Maria D’Olmpio.
It continues with performances on Wednesday, December 19 at 7:00 pm, Friday, December 21 at 7:00 pm, and Saturday, December 22 at 3:00 and 7:00 pm at the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street New York, NY 10014).
For more information visit https://actorsfund.org/performances-and-events/notes-wherever