Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Theater review: 'How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found' at Boston Court

May 5, 2011 |  4:20 pm

Charlie (a sensational Brad Culver), the protagonist of British playwright Fin Kennedy’s “How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found,” is in the midst of a full-scale nervous breakdown. But whether the problem is in his head or the world around him is a question that this jangled play refuses to answer.

The truth is, you’re likely to be too exhausted to care one way or the other at the end of this mercilessly intense production at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The relentlessness of the piece, part expressionistic psychodrama, part dystopian adventure tale, is compounded by a purposefully disorienting style that doesn’t merely describe Charlie’s state of mind but enacts it. This is appropriately head-spinning, but when the plot transforms midway through into an instructional manual on identity theft, you may be tempted to diagnose the play with multiple personality disorder.
Nancy Keystone’s uncompromising staging, making imaginative use of a monochromatic set she designed of unwelcoming gray walls menacingly flecked with Adam Flemming’s futuristic video projections, catches the sense of urban anomie to a point that would have had Kafka waving a little white flag. It’s an unrelievedly grim landscape, where technology keeps one isolated and corporate savagery is always ready to pounce on the weak and wounded. (John Zalewski’s original music and sound design enhance the production’s overall chilling effect.)

HTDC_5 Culver cuts a compellingly strung-out figure as a slickly dressed junior marketing executive toting around an urn of his recently deceased mother’s ashes. The universe — or at least his inhospitable London quarter of it — is driving Charlie to erase himself, and Culver sympathetically yet unsentimentally conveys the physical and psychological toll on a young man who has fallen down an Orwellian manhole.

The other actors in the cast — Valerie Spencer, Nick Mills, Carolyn Ratteray and a delightfully seedy Time Winters — adeptly populate this stark human zoo. Sorting out the various personalities they portray can be tricky at times, but Kennedy wants you to experience the blur of Charlie’s overwrought vision, even at the risk of inducing some of his queasier symptoms.
-- Charles McNulty\charlesmcnulty

“How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found,” the Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 29. $32. (626) 683-6883 or Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photos: Top: From left, Valerie Spencer, Nick Mills, Time Winters, Brad Culver, Carolyn Ratteray. Bottom: Ratteray and Culver. Credit: Ed Krieger / Boston Court.