Reverberations by Brian Linds, Presentation House Theatre, until March 17, 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. weekends. Tickets from $15 at phtheatre.org/event/reverberations/ or call 604-990-3474.
She lived in silence.
Not serene quiet but the imperceptible frequencies of life and energy ebbing away; like the murmured pop of a plant succumbing to thirst.
Discussing his mother’s life in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, Brian Linds remembers that she was almost in a vegetative state.
But near the end Linds’ phone buzzed.
“Go see mom,” his father ordered. “She’s talking.”
Linds raced to the hospital and for an hour-and-a-half a mother and son talked.
That story of that beautiful breaking silence is recalled in Reverberations, an interactive performance being staged at Presentation House Theatre.
As the show’s writer and sound designer, Linds guides small audiences through five different spaces, each one conjuring a chapter from the creator’s life.
“Everyone has had the experience of maybe that first love. Everyone has had a parent that maybe suffered a bit. Everyone has fallen in love,” he says.
The cycle of vignettes unfold primarily through sound, including Linds’ idiosyncratic collection of cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and vinyl records including old 78s of Jewish cantor singing.
Linds classifies himself as a record collector and a “music nut.”
“You hear the crackling and these guys who are singing . . . trying to reach the skies because their voices are trying to reach God,” he says.
But despite a nearly lifelong love of music and a fascination with the nature of sound, he hadn’t considered it as a means of storytelling until the artistic director of Victoria’s Belfry Theatre prevailed on him.
The director wanted mini-plays staged in “storage closets, in hallways, wherever there was a space you could put on a show,” Linds recalls. The play could deal with any theme so long as it dealt with that theme without dialogue.
“Just use sound,” he was told.
With an audience of 10 wedged into a hallway, Linds guided them through the emotions of someone inside an isolation tank via speakers arranged at either end of the corridor.
The intimacy of the space and the novelty of the approach compelled Linds, and a few years later he followed with the story of his mother’s spontaneous lucidity.
“It spoke to people because people have had that experience before of loss,” he says. “But it was told in a way of something extraordinary happening within it.”
Over the years Linds told more stories from his life. He dealt with those subtle, revelatory moments when he saw that something was wrong with his mother. There was the time she didn’t know how to put a phone in a cradle. The time she couldn’t open a door.
For Reverberations, Linds took those instants and added an authoritative voice intended to mimic the operator informing you that the number you have dialled is not in service.
“She reacts to that voice or the voice reacts to her,” he says.
Reverberations also features his bar mitzvah. Because his sister missed the celebration, Linds recorded his recitation from the Torah and his speech on cassette. That tape, lost long ago to a break-in, resurfaces.
“I always had a fantasy of what happened to that tape,” he says.
In creating the show, Linds found himself thinking about the personal meaning of being Jewish.
“I’m not a practising Jew but I am a Jewish person,” he says. “Who I am is formed and shaped because I was born Jewish.”
The very fact of his birth was likely made possible by Saskatchewan’s Jewish community, he says.
Linds’ father met his future wife in Montreal. They lost touch but 10 years later, in an episode recounted in Reverberations, the two came face to face at a Manitou Beach dance hall that catered to Jewish people.
“That’s the story of love,” Linds says. “We all have that story.”
Linds went to Hebrew school. He knows the history of the Jewish people, the traditions and customs. But for him, being Jewish remains hard to define, he says.
“It’s something that I’m not always feeling within myself so when I bump into a friend who’s Jewish we all of a sudden become more Jewish,” he says with a laugh.
It’s not quite spiritual or traditional. “There’s a word that I’m missing,” he says.
But if he can’t find the right word, Linds can always find the right sound.