Sunday, September 12, 2010

Me, Myself & I

In Edward Albee’s new play “Me, Myself & I,” a disheveled mother played by Elizabeth Ashley can’t tell her two sons apart. The young men are identical twins that are both named Otto. Actually, one is named otto and the other is OTTO.

But you won’t have any trouble distinguishing “Me, Myself and I” from far better plays written by Albee like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance.”

“Me, Myself & I” explores Albee’s trademark theme of absurdity in the everyday household. The evil son suddenly insists that his brother no longer exists and has been replaced. This causes the good son and his mother to doubt his very identity and chaos to ensue.

This dilemma recalls the plot of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” where George and Martha claim to have a son who may or may not be a figment of their imagination.

Unfortunately, “Me, Myself & I” operates like a half-baked, torturously overextended sketch instead of a substantial play. By the end of the first act, nothing has yet to even happen.

It feels as if Albee is simply congratulating himself on his legendary wit and complex language instead of actually writing a story. Worst of all is how Albee resorts to off-color humor and directly addressing the audience for cheap laughs.

Even so, Emily Mann’s production, which premiered three seasons ago in New Jersey, is quite handsome and focused. At the very end, the stage opens up from below and out comes a long-lost character on a chariot with black stallions.

The gravely-voiced Elizabeth Ashley is terrific as the cranky and dazed mother, and Brian Murray is in fine form as her longtime lover. What a shame they are not appearing in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” instead.

“Me, Myself & I” plays at Playwrights Horizons through Oct. 31.
416 W. 42nd St., 212-279-4200, playwrightshorizons.org.

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