Misbegotten identity

Annex's new devised show leaves a confused impression

PERSONAL IDENTITY IS much more fragile and mutable than we think. We define ourselves through what are, in reality, some pretty arbitrary factors: our family, whom we love, how we dress, even the contents of our wallet. A simple request to provide ID at a bar can lead to a miniature identity crisis, as we flip through and reveal ourselves as library patrons, blood donors, voters. . . .

Identikit

Annex Theater, ends May 15

This is the premise of Identikit, a new devised production with Carys Kresny at the helm as director and with a script developed by the company. There are some clever ideas in this show, including an extended sketch in which an obstetrician of the future takes advice by committee on what a genetically modified child should look like. In another inspired routine, a pregnant woman gives birth via a purse to a trashy romance novel. Indeed, there are times when Identikit resembles a darkly surreal Laugh-In, providing the brain with a series of turbo-fast ruminations on the many ways we can change, mistake, and claim identity.

But the overriding problem of the evening is that too much falls prey to the Scylla and Charybdis of devised work, either stating what is only too evident about its subject or being so obscure as to leave little impression at all. It's the side effect of having a group of people in a rehearsal room laboring to find a common dramatic language and occasionally stumbling with a gasp of surprise upon the obvious, as happens in a piece about a dating service where clients are reduced to personals-ad initials. At other times, we are confronted with movements, statements, or situations that remain as frustratingly opaque as a secretary's idiosyncratic shorthand. When actor Patrick Sexton begins a series of Tourette's-esque twitches that are gradually passed to the rest of the company, it could be a metaphor for nonverbal communication, or a remembered gesture seeking replication, or even a virus. It's anyone's guess—unless you happen to be a member of the cast. As with a lot else in this uneven show, the whole is less than the individual parts.

 
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