Sorry, Charlie

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theatre for KCRW.

So you work at some high-powered consulting firm. You've been burning the candle at both ends, doing a bit of coke to keep things flowing. You're in a bit of trouble at work, took advantage of a situation and now it's coming back to haunt you. You wake up exhausted, head pounding. Suddenly looking at yourself in the mirror it comes to you like a lightning bolt - what if you could just disappear? What if you could walk away from it all and start again?

That's the basic premise behind British playwright Fin Kennedy's west coast premiere of How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found now playing at the Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena.

We follow our anti-hero Charlie through a maze of a story that's one part Memento, one part Kafka -- that is, if Joseph K. were involved in identity fraud and had a coke habit that feels reminiscent of the late 80's. Basically, Charlie's hit a sort of mid-life crisis and discovers he can ditch it all, steal a new identity, and begin anew. At least that's the promise -- but as always, existential angst and emptiness are a little tougher to shrug off than simply getting a new driver's license. As they say, no matter where you go, there you are...

What's remarkable about this play, written only three short years ago, is how distant it feels. It's one of those moments when a play arrives almost in a time capsule from a different era like the recent revival of Lanford Wilson's 25-year-old Burn This! But with this play, well we're still wearing underwear we bought when it premiered.

It's not that the desire to walk away from it all, cut the credit cards, and become a new person has become dated. Quite the contrary, people are walking away from underwater mortgages every day. What makes the play feel old are Charlie's circumstances: he feels empty because of a job that probably pays too much and lines of cocaine that are a little too easy to come by. In our post-economic collapse, Bernie Madoff, Lehman Brothers-world, it's tough to feel sorry for Charlie.

The production is still very much worth seeing. It's another in what I'll call Boston Court's "troubling ideas about our new century series." Boston Court is consistently picking meaty intellectual plays that may not be perfect, but leave you thinking and engaged. They've also picked a fantastic director and design team for this production. Nancy Keystone both directed and designed the stark minimalist set. Keystone directs as much with images as with words and she keeps the dizzying array of characters and locations flowing by until we land in each distinct locale: a lost property office, a nightclub, a seaside fortune teller, a grungy bathroom. The effect is as if the world is rushing by Charlie until he settles, for a moment, in each scene. Keystone's set, matched with Chris Kuhl's elemental lighting, are a beautiful study in simplicity and shadow.

And hey, if you're feeling the itch to get away for a while, a long while, you might pick up a couple useful pointers.

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found plays at the Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena through May 29.

For info on the show text the word "curtain" to 69866 and join the conversation at

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theatre for KCRW.

Banner image of (L to R) Valerie Spencer, Nick Mills, Time Winters, Brad Culver and Carolyn Ratteray on How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found: Ed Krieger, Boston Court