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EMAV Review: Nerve cells connect 'Incognito' at A Public Fit ★★★★☆

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

★★★★☆ - Delicious

"Who tells the story of self? That's like asking who thunders the thunder or rains the rain. It is not so much a question of us telling the story as the story telling us." (Paul Broks, neuropsychologist)

Neuropsychology is the science of analyzing the relationship between personality, performance, and the anatomical and physiological structure of the brain. Broks is one practitioner who asks the question: What is the relationship between the brain and the mind and the self?

"You can learn a lot about the brain, but you don't necessarily learn much about the self because that's a different layer of existence. What makes a person unique is how the mind utilizes the brain, and how the mind is shaped by interacting with other minds to form the self.”

Audiences are miraculously transported to a theatrical illustration of this very conundrum in a delicious 4-Star presentation of Nick Payne’s “Incognito”, the first production of the 2018-19 Season by A Public Fit Theatre Company (APF), which runs through December 16th in co-production with Cockroach Theatre Company at the Art Square Theatre.

Four gifted actors play a combined 21 characters within the play’s three artfully interwoven stories: A pathologist steals the brain of Albert Einstein; a neuropsychologist embarks on her first romance with another woman; a seizure patient forgets everything but how much he loves his girlfriend. “Incognito” braids these mysterious stories into one breathtaking whole that asks whether memory and identity are nothing but illusions.

“Incognito” features Tina Rice, Jasmine Kojouri, Marcus Weiss, and Erik Amblad. Each member of this exceptionally supple quartet transfers the dramatic energy of their multiple characters as if part of one shared central nervous system – like synapses found where nerve cells connect with other nerve cells to guarantee that the signal of the brain reaches its destination. They switch characters at the drop of a hat and fluidly move between wit and deeper emotion. Through and through it is a compelling, humane story enacted by absorbing characters with whom we feel a connection.

Directors Ann Marie Pereth and Joseph D. Kucan maintain a lively pace throughout the evening, skillfully balancing playwright Payne’s ability to meld complicated philosophic and scientific tenets with simpler human struggles. The production team has kept their components intentionally modest so as to ensure that our focus remains fixed on the thought-provoking human interaction before us. Kudos to Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova (costumes), Ellen Bone (lighting), Yale Yeandel (sets), and The Dog & Pony Show (sound).

Nick Payne is the recipient of the 2009 George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright, 2012 Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award, and the 2012 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play for Constellations. The play was originally produced in the USA by Manhattan Theater Club at City Center in May, 2016. As Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times:

“Mysteries swirl in storm clouds in Nick Payne’s “Incognito,” enough to fill many seasons of cliffhanger soap operas. The subjects of these tantalizing puzzles include questions of paternity, a man who murdered his wife on their 30th wedding anniversary, the secrets that lovers keep from each other and the disappearance of an essential anatomical part of a great scientist.”

“Yet the biggest mystery of all, the one that dominates every aspect of this lively, self-examining drama of ideas, is the very apparatus that you’re using to make sense of this sentence. I mean your brain.”

Incognito, written by Nick Payne and directed by Ann Marie Pereth and Joseph D. Kucan

Presented through December 16th by A Public Fit Theatre Company at Art Square Theatre, 1025 South First Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101.

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