Have you ever had the feeling that you just couldn’t take it anymore? Have you dreamed about running away from it all? You’re not alone. Insurance companies report an estimated 40 to 50 claims per year filed by people who’ve faked their own deaths to escape their troubled lives; and those statistics are on the rise.
Charlie, the depressed protagonist in Luna’s HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY AND NEVER BE FOUND, is overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, and stressed out by failed relationships, the death of his mother, and an unfulfilling career as a junior executive in a London advertising firm. When self-medicating with drugs and alcohol no longer alleviates the pressure, Mike (a con-man acquaintance who might be his father) offers him the perfect solution, with precise instructions on how to commit pseudocide.
Seen through the cocaine-induced haze of Charlie’s confused mind, the intense existentialist drama is a surreal exploration of the Freudian concepts of id, ego, and superego; it begs the question of what makes us who we are, and recognizes that we can never really escape from our inherent selves.
The boredom and conformity of Charlie’s life are tellingly captured by Luna’s starkly minimalist set and monochromatic costumes, limited to gradations of black and white. David Stanger’s bravura performance as the distraught Charlie is highlighted by a masterfully paced seven-minute monologue in direct address to the audience, as we watch him succumb to a full nervous breakdown. His repressed anger and ineffectuality in dealing with the minor frustrations of daily life are at first funny, then more disturbed, as he rants about the vengeance he envisioned wreaking on his antagonists, punctuated by the exasperated refrain, “But I didn’t.” He becomes increasingly agitated and builds to a crescendo of violence, recounting in a manic rage his hostile fantasies that would result in him putting his fist through the face in a mirror–symbolically obliterating his own image and bringing us to the realization that his problems lie within.
Just as simply as Charlie assumes his new identity of Adam, the supporting cast of Mark Cairns, Steven Wright, Bethany Ditnes, and a hilarious Jennifer MacMillan, effortlessly assumes multiple roles with distinct characterizations and accents–warranting kudos not only for this consistently outstanding ensemble, but also for director Gregory Scott Campbell and vocal coach Melanie Julian. Video designer Michael Long’s astonishing projection of a party scene (employing the cutting-edge digital technology of Adobe After Effects) seamlessly depicts each of the actors twice in the same room, simultaneously engaged in different conversations and actions, to underscore once again the play’s underlying theme of identity crisis.
In the end, despite his desperate attempt to escape the doldrums of his past, Charlie finds that the essence of his persona is not as easily changed as his wardrobe and paper trail. He is doomed to repeat the same mistakes in his new life as Adam, because a person’s true identity is more than the name on a document.
For tickets to this compelling production, visit Luna Theater Company online at www.lunatheater.org, call 215.413.1318, or visit the Fringe/Live Arts Box Office at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street.
HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY AND NEVER BE FOUND
By Fin Kennedy
September 1-18, 2011
Luna Theater Company
Playground at the Adrienne
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103