From TheaterWeek, December 30, 1991 by Dorothy Chansky
For As a Dream that Vanishes (A Meditation on the Harvest of a Lifetime) Merry Conway and Noni Pratt spent four years assembling artifacts, music, film and movements to comprise an evening that oscillated between the down home and the cosmic. The unpredictability of the moment of death is the underlying theme that seems to make all of the details and the activities in the piece so poignant.
From Newsday, Novemeber,1991. by Amei Wallach
In the raw-space basement of what by next spring is expected to be the Guggenheim Museum's outpost in Soho, Noni Pratt and Merry Conway have re-created the death of a very old man, both through performance and an exhibition of his life's detritus. The clutter -- so intimate it makes your skin crawl; so hilarious it brings tears to your eyes -- includes the sorts of things pushed into the back of bureau drawers, squashed into the bottoms of pockets, sifted and saved into boxes, basements, file drawers and closets. The point is to bring home both the meaning of death and of the unguarded, unglamorous, ridiculous moments that go into the making of a person's life. Our lives, of course, but in particular the life of Josh, a neighbor whom Pratt and Conway befriended and knew over the four years until his recent death at 97. They studied his habits in the small, fetid, debris-strewn apartment where he lived, they ran his errands; threw a 96th birthday party for him and for this installation almost exactly reproduced the particular corner in which he sat staring most of the time. Audiences are invited to wander the installation for a half-hour, then settle down on old chairs found on the street for a performance as excruciatingly slow-moving as the actions of old age. Actor Albert Ratcliffe, a former Presbyterian minister and former automotive-parts salesman, wears a red clownÍs nose that turns him into Everyman. In the end the production is majestic and swelling, a contemplation of death that can stand comparison with a Mahler symphony. Hard to figure out where the magic happens: probably in the details, like that endless five minutes during which the old man reaches into a box for a cracker and, in motion so slow it nearly stops, finally eats it.
From The New York Times, November 13, 1991. by Mel Gussow
As a Dream that Vanishes (A Meditation on the Harvest of a Lifetime) is part walk-through museum installation and part performance piece, the combined creation of Merry Conway and Noni Pratt, who are actresses as well as visual artists. As the title indicates, this is a contemplation of life leading to death. Entering the large, unnamed basement space, the future home of the Guggenheim Museum Soho, a theatergoer passes under a representation of Charon (played by an actor) rowing across the River Styx. This macabre initial image is replaced by encyclopedic introspection. In curio cabinets and on shelves are objects that could fill the attic of a gabled mansion. There are old photographs, antique hats, cracked pottery and other bric-a-brac, an accumulation of things one cannot bear to throw away. Most of the objects have no particular value, but taken together they are proof of possession and artifacts of existence. They once were and still could be meaningful. The installation is reminiscent of exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, for example, one that was dedicated to the art of the English garden and included in its mementos Gertrude Jekyll's gardening tools and shoes. The Conway-Pratt exhibition, which has its share of spades and trowels, is similar microcosmic. This is not a random tag sale, but an artistically arranged exhibition of memories and memorabilia, organized by Gregor Paslawsky with a sense of self-parody. A theatergoer may wonder why such trivia is saved, and even cherished, and then remember similar objects undisposed at home. The eccentricity of the collections is like an Alice in Wonderland inversion of reality.