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BWW Review: Nick Payne's INCOGNITO Is Brainy, But Muddy

"They Saved Hitler's Brain!," exclaimed the title of a schlocky, 1960s sci-fi movie.

Morgan Spector, Geneva Carr, Heather Lind
and Charlie Cox (Photo: Joan Marcus)

"They Stole Einstein's Brain!," might be a suitable subtitle for Nick Payne's ambitious, but somewhat muddy new play, INCOGNITO, admirably performed by a hard-working quartet of actors at Manhattan Theatre Club.

The true story of how Thomas Harvey (Morgan Spector), the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Albert Einstein's corpse, got greedy and drove the genius' noodle home with him - where he cut it up into small pieces and sent them to collages around the world - represents only a third of the one-act drama.

The most emotionally compelling third involves Henry (Charlie Cox), a concert pianist who, after an operation to cure his seizures, lives an existence of perpetual short-term memory loss.

Heather Lind and Geneva Carr
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

The pie is completed by the story of a budding romance between neuropsychologist Martha (Geneva Carr) and lawyer Patricia (Heather Lind) that screeches to a halt when Patrice finds out that Martha had been married to a man and has a grown son.

Designer Scott Pask's set is a sleek-looking oval with four chairs. Directed by Doug Hughes, the actors divide twenty roles in short interwoven scenes that snap directly into each other, frequently making transitions from story to story unclear.

The play is divided into three sections, designated by the words "Encoding," "Storing" and "Retrieving" being projected upstage while the actors perform abstract choreography by movement director Peter Pucci.

While INCOGNITO may very well provide some fascinating observations about the workings of the brain, some clearer storytelling is required to get them across.

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From This Author Michael Dale