BWW Review: INCOGNITO at Urbanite Theatre
During INCOGNITO, British playwright Nick Payne challenges 4 actors to portray a combination of 21 characters in three separate yet interwoven storylines. These stories introduce us to a neuropsychologist cautiously stepping into her first romance with another woman, a pathologist who steals the brain of Albert Einstein, and an institutionalized patient with seizures who only remembers the love he has for his girlfriend. These are demanding roles for any actor who must be prepared to easily transition from one character to another, often undertaking a different dialect or accent, while keeping pace in this 95-minute play that has no intermission. It's fascinating to watch the cast turnabout and literally change their identities.
Mr. Payne also challenges his audience to keep up with the dialogues, storylines and relationships that this production propels at you in a fairly rapid pace. In the beginning I found myself trying to make sense of these mini vignettes and swift character transitions and got caught up in my own puzzlement. I finally put my curiosity to rest and settled in to paying attention to what was before me. Then I began to understand. I advise you to do the same. Relax. Take it in. Let it unfold.
INCOGNITO covers a lot of ground in the complexities it presents. It will haunt you well after you leave the theatre with thought provoking ideas on psychology, love, marriage, murder, and the human condition. This play is all about how the brain functions. Or not. I had to do a little research on what the play stated as far as someone acquiring Einstein's brain. I remember reading something about it long ago but this time it stuck with me and piqued my curiosity enough to research details. I found it was indeed a fact. I also found, as the play stated, that Einstein was not the perfect father figure.
The accomplished and nimble ensemble of Matt Crabtree, Brendan Ragan and Urbanite debuts for Sunny Smith and Brooke Tyler Benson took on each of their many characters with finesse and clarity. I commend this cast for digging in their heels and presenting a remarkable study of the human condition. Crabtree portrays Thomas Harvey the pathologist who "borrows" Einstein's grey matter, a man who killed his wife, claiming amnesia, and a doctor who is overseeing institutionalized Henry for memory loss. Among other characters, Ragan gives poor Henry his sweet and kind but sad persona. Miss Benson plays Henry's devoted wife and love interest to Martha. Miss Smith depicts Martha, a divorced neuropsychologist who is dealing with her own set of challenging circumstances
Director Daniel Kelly gives his actors plenty of breadth for them to define the depth they brought to each of their characters. He ran a very tight ship to keep the pace moving as it did. With an old piano in the background and one stool in each corner of the stage for the actors, there was no room for error. The timing was impeccable.
Congratulations to Urbanite Theatre on their 5th anniversary of bringing some of the most unusual, provocative and engrossing productions to their mighty little stage.
INCOGNITO runs through July 8, 2018. For more information on this production and Urbanite's upcoming season, visit www.urbanitetheatre.com.