‘How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found’ at Theater Alliance by Natalie McCabe

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“You are who you can prove you are. You are what people think. And that’s the easiest thing in the world to change.” Or is it?

In Theater Alliance’s DC-area premiere of the internationally award-winning How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, protagonist Charlie (played by an adept Dylan Morrison Myers), finds himself in a downward spiral after his mother’s untimely death. His health, job, and personal relationships suffer until, beyond desperate, he enlists the help of con man Mike (Ian Armstrong) to assume another identity entirely. Yet, even cut off from his former life, with the new identity of Adam, Charlie is still unable to maintain control of his life.

His neurosis reaches its peak in Act I and continues on the same crazy level as his life spins out of control, no matter which identity he assumes. Indeed, Charlie is unable to verify his identity as alive or dead, as his encounters with pathologist Sophie (a quiet, inquisitive Stephanie Roswell) increase. Myers absorbs the part so well one worries about his personal well-being after each show, when the actor must be exhausted both physically and mentally.

Dylan Morrison Myers, Nadia Mahdi, and Greg Gallagher in 'How To Disappear Completely and Not Be Found.' Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

I commend Director Colin Hovde for taking control of such a heavy, emotional play which, throughout, reminds audience members of bits of themselves. The ensemble (the aforementioned Ian Armstrong with Greg Gallagher and Nadia Mahdi) fly effortlessly through their roles, making their onstage transitions appear natural as they make each character their own.

The protagonist’s plight is evident when the audience enters as he is laying, asleep, center stage. As soon as the house opens, dripping sounds echo throughout Brooke A. Robbins’ intimate, yet impersonal and isolating set, littered with storage boxes in various states of disrepair, with intriguing labels including “Social Experiments.” The actors’ dark, dreary costumes, designed by Leon E. Wiebers, adeptly replicate the grey sludge that Charlie believes is slowly filling his body. Elisheba Iltoop’s sound design continues to reinforce the isolating, cold experience, using everyday noises which remind the audiences that their own issues may be found in the play. (A warning: if you happen to sit towards the front left near the speaker, those sounds can be distracting at times, especially as the play stretches a few minutes too long into Act II.)

Playwright Fin Kennedy hails from the MA Writing for Performance Program at Goldsmiths College, London. How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found won the 38th Arts Council John Whiting Playwriting Award as well as the Peter Brook Award after it premiered in 2007. Audiences have two more weeks to catch this thriller of a new play in its area premiere, and to see these three powerful performances.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found runs now through April 1, 2012 at the H Street Playhouse- 1365 H Street NE, in Washington, DC 20002. Purchase your tickets online.