Nick Payne’s cerebral, psychological study into the human brain gets an impressive presentation by four actors playing 20 roles in “Incognito” at the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket.
Payne has taken three stories and woven them together in a clever, if somewhat challenging manner. The actors and the audience must remain alert to the subtle changes as the actors switch characters with nothing more than a nod of the head, change of posture or slight accent.
Tom (Tony Estrella) is a pathologist who has stolen Einstein’s brain for his own personal study. Henry (Michael Liebhauser) has lost his short-term memory after a major operation. Martha (Casey Seymour Kim) is a neuropsychologist searching for her own identity. The three stories about them are cleverly interwoven, connecting at times in challenging ways that will keep you on your toes. They take place at different times and locations. Karen Carpenter’s four characters figure heavily in the stories, especially as she relates to husband Henry, as she tries unsuccessfully to connect with him.
If you read the play, you are sure to get lost in the transitions, as you may at times in watching it. Thanks to the brilliant work of the four accomplished actors and the precise direction of Tyler Dobrosky, the play comes together in one intense act.
The author intends to show “how we are different by what we remember,” according to Dobrowski’s program notes, which should be read before the play begins. While I must admit to struggling to understand all that Payne was trying to tell us about memory and the human brain, I admit to being mesmerized by his methods. This is a play that requires your undivided attention, plus a careful interpretation by the director and execution by the actors. There are very few ensembles – Gamm being one – that could successfully pull it off.
“Incognito” is at Gamm through December 10. Call 723-4266 for reservations.