Sunday, 5 June 2016

INCOGNITO by Nick Payne at Manhattan Theatre Club

     INCOGNITO is a descendant of the best of Tom Stoppard's early plays, a collage of characters and situations taking place over many years, built on science and connected by a vision of the paradoxical ordering and chaos of the human brain. On a circular playing area, four superb actors enact twenty-one characters who interact over generations. Slowly we come to see the links between these characters who are related really and metaphorically. We see a man who, due to a brain disorder, lives in an eternal present. Another man, a pathologist, has stolen the brain of Albert Einstein, hoping to understand how the brain of a genius works. Einstein's granddaughter tells him that science won't help. The man was "a shit." A woman is great at dealing with people professionally, but an unhappy drunk out of work. As the title suggests, people aren't really knowable even to themselves. This is a brilliant, witty play that in its best moments is also heartfelt.
     Under Doug Hughes direction, the cast acts as an ensemble, like a great string quarter. Best is Charlie Cox, particularly in his touching impersonation of a man who has no memory. His Henry is sweet, but pained at his realization that he is mentally unmoored.
      This is one of the best plays I have seen so far this season.
INCOGNITO by Nick Payne. City Center Stage 1. May 3, 2016.

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