Constellation Theatre is probably the crown jewel of the numerous D.C. performing arts groups that regularly perform at The Source Theatre on 14th Street, Northwest.
For proof, check out Constellation’s newest play, “Incognito” now through March 12.
“It’s a fascinating, trans-Atlantic mystery that interweaves three stories and 20 characters played by an ensemble of four actors,” Artistic Director Allison Stockman told WTOP. “Nick Payne has written realistic dialogue in about 40 scenes that are very short. … If I had to categorize it, I’d say it’s primarily a drama, but plenty of humor sprinkled throughout.”
The first storyline follows Thomas Harvey, the pathologist at Albert Einstein’s autopsy who stole his brain for scientific research. “Marcus Kyd is playing the scientist,” Stockman said. “He is very charismatic and passionate, which is wonderful because his character winds up being self-deluded. We are still rooting for him because Marcus brings such energy.”
The second storyline follows a seizure-suffering musician who has brain surgery to remove his hippocampi. “He can’t form any more short-term memories, so he spends his whole life waiting for his fiancee to return so they can go on a honeymoon,” Stockman said. “The musician is played by Gerrad Alex Taylor, who is a musician himself. He plays piano.”
The third storyline follows a neuropsychologist in her first relationship with another woman. “That is played by Kari Ginsburg, who brings both so much strength and vulnerability to this brilliant woman who is struggling with a sense of her own identity,” Stockman said.
The play runs 100 minutes with no intermission for a whirlwind experience of versatile actors swapping roles and playing characters aging over the span of 40 years.
“What’s wild is there are no costume changes,” Stockman said. “Nephelie [Andonyadis] has created a beautiful scenic design, a back wall painted with starlings, these birds that are a theme in the play with paper birds. … On the silver floor are four translucent boxes that can light up in different colors that help us tell changes in location and mood.”
In the end, the title “Incognito” speaks to the deep mysteries of the human brain.
“It’s ultimately about the unknown and how everything in life is ephemeral and can’t be fully understood because our thoughts are changing as our synapses fire away. It’s an ever-shifting landscape that makes it difficult for us to truly know who we are.”