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Simon Heath's play succeeds in its use of technology, but fails to provide a compelling narrative. logo
Jermaine Chambers and Matt Hanley in Doppelganger
(© Ian Tabatchnick)
You enter the 3LD Art and Technology Center's theater through a futuristic, space-age tunnel. The play that unfolds at the other end of that tunnel, Doppelganger is a high-concept work that is nothing if not appropriate for its location. Using state-of-the-art video and sensor technology designed by Jeff Gray, omnipresent sound design by Joel Wilhelmi, and dramatic lighting design by Tom Ontiveros, Doppelganger succeeds in the use of technology. Unfortunately, after a good start, Simon Heath's play flatlines in the ultimately more important arena of theatrical narrative.

The piece begins with Frank (Matt Hanley) in two different scenes that we soon come to learn are happening at virtually the same time. In one scene, he is on a high floor of an office building making love against a floor-to-ceiling window with a colleague named Marcia (Heather Carmichael). In another office building, the very same Frank and his co-worker, George (Jermaine Chambers) are gawking through binoculars at Frank and Marcia's torrid lovemaking across the way. They can't make out the faces, but they can sure see the bodies.

In either context, Frank is the same man with the same personality. He believes in taking chances. Inspired by the lovers ramming their bodies against the window, Frank urges George to get out of his docile shell and grab at life. To prove a point, he throws himself against the shatterproof glass of his own office window. The glass doesn't shatter but the window, itself, gives way due to improperly secured bolts -- and Frank falls to a sudden, harrowing death.

Well, that's a surprise not just for the audience. It's also a surprise for Marcia's doppelganger, who is down on the street below, rushing to meet her lover, Frank -- who crashes down on the pavement right in front of her. Marcia becomes a total mess, unable to work or sleep. Eventually, in a perfectly credible way, George meets Marcia and the two of them realize there were two Franks living a life that was four-and-a-half seconds apart from each other.

Heath seems more consumed by the idea that inspired his play -- Doppelganger theory -- than in working out a satisfying theatrical arc. Nothing much happens in the play after Frank's demise, except for uncovering the existence of the second Frank. True, the search and discovery of the doppelganger scenario does free George from his inhibitions -- but it does the opposite to Marcia. The play seems to cry out for the pair to do something with this knowledge once they discover it.

Director Emanuel Bocchieri does everything possible to make the play appear exciting, and the actors, playing on a mixed media stage designed by Tom Lee, succeed in varying degrees. Carmichael gives a strong, textured performance, while Hanley has a ferocious quality that serves him well as the volatile Frank. Chambers is solid in his role as George, but, he is saddled with the unenviable task of carrying all of the verbiage about doppelganger theory, which is repeated ad infinitum.

There is also the terribly written character of The Doctor who provides a little bit of the narrative glue that ties these characters together. However, between the bad writing and over-the-top acting by Metha Brown, the character only detracts from a show that needs all the narrative drive it can get.


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