Chekhov Lizardbrain

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

On a bright white circle, in front of a deep red curtain, a twitchy master of ceremonies notices us: “Welcome to the big show—and to the big hat.” He clutches at his bedraggled tailcoat. He refuses to doff the hat. This is Chekhov Lizardbrain himself, part pompous ass, all cranial nerve. Inside the recesses of one man’s consciousness, this bossy figment orders memories into line, costumes them in turn-of-the-century garb and generally puts a Chekhovian gloss on things for self-deluded, autistic Dmitri (James Sugg, brilliantly playing himself and his altered ego). And no wonder he needs the mental escape hatch. When Dmitri offends a grieving “three brothers” (Dito van Reigersberg, Geoff Sobelle and Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel), the hurt feelings could cap a flock of seagulls.

Pig Iron Theatre Company specializes in material like this: inventive, delightful, physically adroit works about the mysterious box of the human psyche. As always, performances and mise-en-scène are spot on: Designer Anna Kiraly manages to make even a tangle of lights into a ganglion hanging overhead. Director Dan Rothenberg keeps all four actors springing merrily between stylization (signaled by white long johns and waxed mustaches) and melancholy realism. As a devised piece, Chekhov Lizardbrain is unusual in its graceful incorporation of sources; Anton and Asperger’s make odd but comfortable bedfellows. If the ensemble has to force the crescendo that moves us toward the end, they have more than earned our indulgence. And, as for seeing Sugg’s strange, brilliant performance, you shouldn’t think twice. Just bypass all your brains, and go.

Ohio Theatre. By Robert Quillen Camp. Dir. Dan Rothenberg. With ensemble cast. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.