Manhattan Theatre Club presents the American premiere of Nick Payne's play, which examines whether our memories and identities exist only in our minds. More…
A pathologist steals the brain of Albert Einstein; a neuropsychologist embarks on her first romance with another woman; a seizure patient forgets everything except how much he loves his girlfriend. These mysterious stories are braided into one breathtaking whole that asks whether memory and identity are nothing but illusions. Directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes, 'Incognito' takes us into the last uncharted realm: the mind.
"'Incognito' explodes onto the stage and there you are on this incredible ride. Hughes’ direction of Payne’s brilliant script is so spot-on, so meticulous and moving at the speed of light, that there is no room for you to exhale...It is a tour de force for these incredibly skilled performers. They’re jaw-droppingly good...This is why we have theatre...This is the off-Broadway scene as it should be, intimate and at the same time expansive, thought-provoking, exciting and surprising." Full Review
"This is heady theater and demands concentration. However, the excellent cast of four made of Geneva Carr (Theatre World Award winner for 'Hand to God'), Charlie Cox (Netflix’s 'Daredevil'), Heather Lind (AMC’s 'Turn: Washington’s Spies'), and Morgan Spector (Drama Desk Award nominee for 'Russian Transport') make this an unforgettable evening in the theater." Full Review
"This is a brilliant, witty play that in its best moments is also heartfelt. Under Doug Hughes' direction, the cast acts as an ensemble, like a great string quartet. Best is Charlie Cox, particularly in his touching impersonation of a man who has no memory. His Henry is sweet, but pained at his realization that he is mentally unmoored. This is one of the best plays I have seen so far this season." Full Review
"A lively, self-examining drama of ideas…The script’s diverse figures are embodied by an exceptionally supple ensemble of four…Remarkable for the clarity with which it graphs its various forms of confusion and delusion...'Incognito' doesn’t achieve the raw emotional force of 'Constellations.' But as befits a work about the vagaries of memory, Mr. Payne’s multilayered works remains in your mind, challenging our most fundamental notions of autonomous selfhood." Full Review
"'Incognito' confirms that Payne is in a class of his own as a contemporary writer…’Incognito’ never once feels like a stolid post-grad lecture on neuroscience. Through and through, it is a compelling, humane story, featuring absorbing characters with whom we feel a kinship...While there are points where Hughes' staging tends to lag, his work impresses here for its decision to let the audience conjure the world of the play ourselves." Full Review
"Make sure your brain is in good working order if you go to see “Incognito,” as it will undergo demanding exercise as you strain to follow the clever, intricate interplay...The acting is consistently admirable, as the cast members slip in and out of a variety of characters at a rather rapid pace...Payne is especially creative and demanding in this Manhattan Theatre Club presentation. And there is just the right cast to make the most of his head trip." Full Review
“Four actors playing twenty different characters...That none of this ever becomes remotely confusing is a testament to actors who switch between British and American accents with tremendous ease, and who delineate their many characters without the help of a single prop...'Incognito' might have easily tipped over in pretentiousness but instead proves fleet, witty and, by the end of its 85 minutes, heartbreaking.” Full Review
"Clever and poignant…Payne can be too clever for his own good though, and some of 'Incognito’s' formal notions don’t entirely succeed. But one of his great gifts is the ability to poignantly meld complicated philosophic and scientific tenets with simpler human struggles. Molaison’s condition and its implications for human identity are fascinating, but more moving is his love for his wife, whom he greets anew every minute." Full Review
"Geneva Carr, Charlie Cox, Heather Lind and Morgan Spector handle the to and fro between characters and story lines with great physical as well as emotional and verbal dexterity…If you liked 'Constellations,' you'll be glad Mr. Payne is back with another clever brain teaser. And given this excellent production and acting ensemble he's sure to win some new fans. That said, however, 'Incognito' isn't quite as emotionally engaging as his 'Constellations.'" Full Review
"Payne did the same thing last season with ‘Constellations.’ That play, like this one, paid enormous theatrical dividends if you were willing to stick with it. But what it offered that 'Incognito' doesn't, at least to the same degree, is a rigorous depth of feeling...It's still gripping in how much it does attempt and how much of that it achieves. And one suspects, even during the sags, that it wouldn't take much to make this intellectual triumph into an emotional triumph as well." Full Review
"What happens to Einstein’s brain, Thomas Harvey’s marriage, Martha and Patricia’s romance, and Henry’s memory – including his ability to remember how to play the piano – makes up the engaging ninety minutes of Mr. Payne’s important play. Each actor gives their multiple characters distinct characteristics, mannerisms, and speech patterns. This results in authentic and believable performances throughout." Full Review
"Doug Hughes puts an adept four-person cast through this convoluted-by-design brain-teaser which is likely to send you out of the theatre working out the puzzle. And keep you thinking for days after. 'Incognito' is brainy, all right…The good news of the day is that Payne pulls it off…It should be stated that folk in search of light entertainment might do well to go elsewhere; 'Incognito' could overwhelm people who aren’t looking for an evening of intellectual stimulation." Full Review
“Nick Payne’s multilayered exploration of neurological phenomena...The four-person cast of Nick Payne’s ‘Incognito’ get a workout in Doug Hughes’ fascinating and challenging production. Each plays a variety of roles in three separate story lines concerning the effect of the brain on personality and memory. At first, they seem unconnected but by the end of 90 intriguing minutes they are bound inextricably together like strands of DNA.” Full Review
"Carr and her three co-performers, Charlie Cox, Heather Lind and Morgan Spector, play 20 parts between them with remarkable dexterity, seamlessly switching between British and American accents and barely pausing to draw breath…The ending comes across as a little bit Hollywood, but 'Incognito' is that rare thing: a piece of theatre that really forces us to think." Full Review
"But more compelling is how Payne questions the purely physiological functions of the brain, weighing them against the emotional — is it possible to maintain a ‘sense of self’ when one is going through dementia, even though on a physiological level the brain doesn’t have a headquarters to retain that information? Payne answers that question in a moving way by the play’s conclusion, which left the elderly gentleman next to me sobbing." Full Review
“Payne is better at posing questions than answering them, and his handling of all these narratives leaves much to be desired...The cast of four navigate Payne's intricately constructed script so nimbly...Hughes' immaculate staging is more assured than Payne's often messy script...If it results in a whirring top of a play, spinning off ideas without regard for an overall point of view, it offers many dazzling moments and a prodigious cast. Your brain will be teased--and even sometimes satisfied. Full Review
"As in any pastiche, some stories are better than others. I wished that some had been prolonged and others had been attenuated or even eliminated...The actors are wonderful...Director Doug Hughes skillfully juggles the many strands so that the audience can usually find its bearings without undue difficulty. I admired Payne’s ambition and intelligence even when an occasional scene misfired." Full Review
"'Incognito' feels disjointed. Without the help of costumes, makeup, props, or different sets, it can be hard to follow how all of these lives intersect. But plot holes aside, the acting is superb. The actors have nothing to play off of but each other, and with what feels like a millisecond between scenes, they transform completely...Within a blink, Cox goes from a young American sidekick-type to a feeble, elderly man, and is wholly convincing as both. 'Incognito' is an actor’s dream." Full Review
"Doug Hughes directs a solid cast (Cox is especially brilliant as the sweetly tragic Maison) in what is an impressive acting workout—if not completely revelatory drama. For all the engaging tidbits of information, the notion that personality, love or even genius are not hard-wired into the brain so much as accidents of chemistry and sociology probably won’t blow anyone’s mind." Full Review
"It’s not as compelling, or as cohesive, as 'Constellations,' but, vividly staged and acted, it’s quite diverting…'Incognito' does sometimes seem fitted together, a combining of information rather than a fully imagined whole…These tales are sort of tied together at the end, but in a contrived, not very revelatory, way…Four fine actors play a total of 20 characters…'Incognito' is an ambitious and intelligent play, but it’s in its presentation that it’s most engrossing." Full Review
"Payne ties things together by the end, and the fragmentary episodes emphasize the point that 'the self' is not a unified entity. But the play’s notice-me structure also tends to pull attention away from the primary theme he’s exploring: namely, that trying to figure out how the mind works just by slicing it up is a pointless endeavor. Scenes that clicked most were incidental to main proceedings...The subjects Payne is toying with should make us feel a sense of wonder, which is lacking here." Full Review
"Payne’s dialogue is quick and clever, adding an unexpected humor to a play largely about science…'Incognito' is very engaging, with compelling characters and plot…A satisfying intellectual experience, if not an emotional one. I wonder if all this neuroscience really adds up to a satisfying story. It’s entertaining to watch as all four excellent actors fire on all cylinders, but I’m not sure what Payne wants us to take away…'Incognito' feels like an exercise more than a fully formed play." Full Review
"Nick Payne's ambitious, but somewhat muddy new play, admirably performed by a hard-working quartet of actors…Directed by Doug Hughes, the actors divide 20 roles in short interwoven scenes that snap directly into each other, frequently making transitions from story to story unclear…While 'Incognito' may very well provide some fascinating observations about the workings of the brain, some clearer storytelling is required to get them across." Full Review
"It's an extremely challenging assignment that the ensemble cast executes with admirable skill and precision...'Incognito' exerts a certain fascination, but it's also deeply frustrating...Despite its brevity, the play feels bloated, padded with such extraneous scenes...Payne tends to concentrate on the cerebral, with the result that watching 'Incognito' feels like working on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. It's satisfying up to a point, but we're rarely emotionally engaged." Full Review
"Nick Payne’s brainy but murky mind game of a play is probably more fun to be in than watch...The actors give colorful performances as they switch instantly from one character to another. But like the round bare stage, the play goes in circles. As a husband with recall gone haywire, a sweet Charlie Cox makes the show hit the heart and not just the head." Full Review
See it if you love incredible acting, thought-provoking theater that is accessible and engaging.
Don't see it if you are close minded to new ways of approaching stories, or are looking for a traditionally linear story line.
See it if you love thoughtful, engaging theatre that doesn't dumb itself down for you
Don't see it if you can't keep track of multiple, nonlinear storylines; lack of intricate set is bothersome to you
See it if you're ready to piece the puzzle of a masterful show together, you want incredible actors taking on the challenge of this show
Don't see it if you want a light and simple piece of theatre, you get confused easily by cross-cutting and actors playing multiple roles
See it if You want insight about what gives humans their identity. You enjoy interlocking storylines. You like to think a lot about what you saw.
Don't see it if You prefer easier material. Tip: if you go to a Saturday matinee there is a talkback afterwards.
See it if You are into powerful, taut drama that breaks traditional narrative rules by requiring an effort on the audiences part.
Don't see it if You go to the theatre to sit back and relax.
See it if you want to laugh and cry and see some masterful acting in a starkly staged riveting play.
Don't see it if you don't like shows where actors play more than one character and it's not a linear story.
See it if you don't mind a playwright intentionally confusing you. Four great actors doing great work under a great director.
Don't see it if you have to go alone - you'll want to discuss it over drinks afterward!!!
See it if you want an out of the box play. Story line is a little complex, but interestingly enough, the plot is easy to follow.
Don't see it if you want something light. The 4 actors play multiple characters and the transition is instantaneous, so it requires your full attention.
See it if you love new work that is both intellectually challenging and beautifully choreographed direction. Innovative, smart, moving, thoughtful.
Don't see it if you are too lazy to think, can't follow characters slipping in and out of multiple characters and story lines,
See it if You are up for a nonlinear tale that weaves together science, memory, intrigue and heartbreak performed exquisitely by a stellar cast.
Don't see it if You don't like Nick Payne's other work/you need a straightforward plot/you aren't willing to work for it as an audience member
See it if You're a fan of intense dramas that really make you think. This is some pretty intense down the rabbit hole kind of stuff.
Don't see it if You're looking for light fluffy entertainment that gives you all the answers or ANY of them for that matter. Some of these questions hurt.
See it if you loved Constellations, four skillful actors playing 21 people, want to engage, challenging thoughtful material.
Don't see it if you want something light; if you like big staging or don't want to work while you watch. You didn't like Constellations.
See it if You're looking for a well-crafted night at the theatre that will leave you thinking for days.
Don't see it if You need a linear plot and/or detailed sets and costumes.
See it if you like theater that challenges you and doesn't follow a linear plot line
Don't see it if you aren't willing to pay attention to actors weaving in and out of multiple characters
See it if You love riveting and captivating meditations on life, humanity, and the mind. The performances are masterful and the script is impeccable.
Don't see it if You prefer lighter fare, more ostentatious theater and escapism. Don't see if you don't like minimalism and thought-provoking theater
See it if You want to see something a little different. The cast was excellent and it was interesting how all the stories came together.
Don't see it if There's some weird business in between each scene where they wave their arms around and it's silly, don't see it if you can't get past that.
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