The cast of Chekhov Lizardbrain (from the 2008 production).
BOTTOM LINE: I have almost no idea how to explain this play to you but I TOTALLY recommend it.
The plot is simple: Dmitri would like our attention while he shares a memory. He shares it. End of play. However, as the memory unfolds we realize that it is actually morphing and twisting before our eyes. Dmitri takes us not only on a journey through a painful memory in his own, troubled mind but on an excavation of the various layers of human consciousness, experience and existence (and though on paper it is similar to a Chekhovian study of life, it is hardly like watching a typical production of Three Sisters). So, not so simple….
Dmitri is not adept at direct contact with others so he has created an alter ego, Chekhov Lizardbrain, to host the evening. Lizardbrain leads the audience on this winding adventure through the layers of Dmitri’s consciousness and through the forking map of a human brain in which the reptilian, palcomammalian and neomammalian brain functions are explored. Still with me? We see the same memory played out in a host of different ways as the ensemble of four elastic performers (lead by the astounding James Sugg as Dmitri/Chekhov Lizardbrain) use voice, body and emotion to describe a spectrum of feeling and experience.
This potentially maudlin, ontological exploration swoops gracefully from the ridiculous to the sublime via humor and stunning precision. As we journey through the human brain the play’s loose structure is delicately woven together by Dmitri’s repeated attempt to create Rules about his unruly consciousness, theater and life. There is not a moment in this evening that is not beautifully crafted with physical, vocal and emotional specificity.
Indeed, specificity is the name of the game for Pig Iron theater company. In a city where plays are thrown up with little rehearsal time and an ‘in general’ feel (yeah yeah budget constraints, schedule conflicts, the G train blah blah) Chekhov Lizardbrain is a refreshingly well-incubated evening of theater. It’s creators and performers have been developing the piece for well over the normal four week, NYC rehearsal process and it shows. Each moment of this captivating evening is superbly crafted, including the silent pauses….and there are many. True, it’s an import: Pig Iron is based in Philidelphia. But we should be thankful that they brought it to our hometown for this brief run as part of The Public’s Under The Radar Festival. It is a reminder of what theater can and should be if we take our time and have the courage to care about details. There is nothing ‘in general’ about Chekhov Lizardbrain; it’s success lies in its specificity.
The cast includes Pig Iron co-founders Quinn Bauriedel and Dito van Reigersberg, Pig Iron Company Member James Sugg and New York based actor, Chad Lindsey. James Sugg won an Obie for his performance in this piece. Go find out why.
(Chekhov Lizardbrain plays at CSV Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, through January 17th. Performances are January 13th at 8pm, January 14th at 8pm, January 15th at 8pm, January 16th at 2pm and 8pm, and January 17th at 7pm. Tickets are $20-$35 and are available at ticketcentral.com. For more show info visit pigiron.org.)