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Monday, December 18

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Theatre Mon Nov 16 2009

It's (Not) Better to Disappear Than to Fade Away

Doctor-Charlie.jpgFin Kennedy came up with the idea for How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found after stumbling across the UK missing persons website, which features a gallery of faces with brief descriptions of what they were last seen doing. Curious, he contacted the people behind the site, and they told him that most of these cases are not the products of abductions or murders. Instead, most of these people wanted to disappear. They wanted to start over. When he asked what sorts of people do this, they told him that a lot of them are young professionals--usually men in their late twenties, early thirties, with good jobs. Sure, maybe a little depressed, but they seemed to live relatively charmed lives. Kennedy based the protagonist of his play on this model. Charlie, (played by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia,) is an average man with short brown hair who wears a suit to work at an ad agency.

You can tell he's a little off-kilter, though, from the beginning of the play. Part of it is because he carries the ashes of his recently diseased dear old mom with him everywhere he goes. He carries them to the office of his hilariously-smug doctor, (played by Kristina Johnson,) who dismissingly hands him three giant bottles of pills--one to keep him awake, one to put him to sleep, one to keep him happy, and to his work, where he is confronted for stealing a large amount of money from the company. That stress, compounded by his nasty coke habit and the nasty debt he's accumulated for his nasty coke habit, prove to be too much for him to handle.

Mike-Charlie.jpgCharlie suddenly takes off and seeks refuge at the house of an old family friend, Mike, (charismatically performed by Kevin Stark) who begrudgingly tells him about the art of disappearing. He jumps on the idea and Mike helps him with the ins-and-outs, of which he is an expert because he himself has disappeared dozens of times, and before he knows it, Charlie is Adam.

The problem is, you can change your identity but you can't change who you are. Adam quickly realizes he is doomed to live the same life (or lack thereof, because he's actually dead already,) because, although he has a new name, he still has the same quirks, addictions, and chemical imbalances.

Throughout the play, whether Charlie or Adam, he is almost always enduring some form of panic attack. The rapt audience follows suit and experiences minor panic attacks themselves, yet somehow thoroughly enjoying all 120+ minutes of it. There is never a dull moment in How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found. The dialogue is poetic and witty, sometimes even hysterical in an existential kind of way. The story is impeccably acted by a talented group-- a very small cast who create a very big world, seamlessly slipping from character to character, except for one wonderfully un-naturalistic moment when Kasia Januszewski tears off her coat and wig to switch characters, playing both the woman leaving a voicemail on Charlie's phone to the phone itself, cheerfully announcing that the message has been deleted.

Sophie-Charlie.jpgHow to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found is Kennedy's first stab at the eschewal of naturalism. There is a surrealistic, Brazil-like feel to the play, a dark carnival of existential dread and frantic hissy fits. The style works well for the subject, mimicking the chaos and confusion Charlie is experiencing, making for a very powerful play. Although the play is not lighthearted by any means, it is a pleasure to take in, and it should not be missed.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found was directed by Richard Cotovsky and produced by the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. It is currently playing at Angel Island, 735 W. Sheridan Rd., and will continue through Dec. 20. For showtimes, tickets, and other information, call 773-871-0442 or visit Mary-Arrchie's website.

 
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