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'How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found' in Pasadena

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Brad Culver, Carolyn Ratteray and Company (Photo: Ed Krieger)
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Early on in Fin Kennedy's play "How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found," a doctor diagnoses young London advertising account executive Charlie (Brad Culver) as suffering from depression. But "I don't think the problem lies with me," Charlie insists. "I think things might genuinely be shit."And once Charlie becomes overwhelmed by the mounting ordeal of being Charlie, he visits Mike (Time Winters), a shady old friend of his recently deceased mother, who gives him the rundown on how to shed the identity he walked in the door with and become someone else entirely without ever being discovered. This complex ruse may or may not work, though, because Sophie (Carolyn Ratteray), an attractive young morgue pathologist whom Charlie's just met at a holiday party, assures him he's already dead and lying on a slab back at her workplace.

This kind of kinetic psychological intrigue is catnip for the habitually daring Theatre@Boston Court, and director Nancy Keystone mines Kennedy's ambiguous dislocations and sudden confrontations for all the laughs and action they're worth, if not more.

Shifting from one role to another throughout the play, Winters always remains in command, from his initial appearance as the underground caretaker of a subway station lost and found emporium to his pre-intermission tour de force as Mike, as well as an assortment of bureaucrats and businessmen. And Culver does everything he possibly can to infuse life into Charlie (whether he's actually dead or not) both before and after he changes his name to Adam.

What even the best production in the world can't overcome, however, is a central character without any character. We have no idea if Charlie's an antihero or a lout, a charismatic con man or a schlub. Frequently addressing the audience as "you" as he recounts his own out-of-control degradations, like some latter-day trans-Atlantic riff on Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City" protagonist, Charlie not only can't get a grip on himself, he doesn't let us get a grip on him, either. So even though the dramaturgical pyrotechnics that light the path of his descent are all pretty cool, there's not really much for us to care about in the end.

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The Theatre@Boston Court production of "How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found" runs Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 2 all this month. Additional performances on Monday and Wednesday evening next week. Tickets $32 via Boston Court's site, with $20.50 tickets available for most performances on Goldstar. $5 admission at the door for this Sunday's Mothers' Day matinee.