“I’m not nice,” one of the two twins in Edward Albee’s new play Me, Myself and I, repeats frequently throughout the show. His statement is unnecessary, as it is quite clear that he has malicious intent from the first moment he strides across the stage. But he feels the name to state it over and over again. The feeling of unnecessary and awkward repetition is frequently inspired during this disappointing production currently at the Playwrights Horizons.
Dysfunctional families are a given when watching an Albee play and his latest work does not disappoint on that front. Me, Myself and I explores a family thrown into chaos when one of two identical twins declares that his brother does not exist. Oh, and for some reason, he has decided that he wants to be Chinese.
The twins are named OTTO (Zachary Booth) and otto (Preston Sadleir). The first name is intended to be spoken loudly, the second softly. Their mother, played in a fantastic performance by Elizabeth Ashley, thought it made perfect sense for identical twins to have identical names, an idea her live-in lover and psychiatrist (Brian Murray) has been unable to shake after 28 years. Mother, a brassy, bold and woefully self-indulgent woman, is clearly deranged, but she is so set in her ways that any kind of change or progress seems almost inconceivable.
“Are you the one who loves me?” she solemnly asks each of her sons as they approach her. It’s impossible for her to tell them apart, but Dr. is able to quite easily, he says, because neither of them love her.
The concept is an interesting one, and the questioning of identity is a familiar theme in Albee’s work, as are horrifying mothers. But the execution of the idea is clunky and confusing, and the show moves at such a slow pace that even its funniest moments appear overwrought. In a move that damages the play’s impact, the characters frequently address the audience directly (although there is one enjoyable moment when OTTO explains that leaning against a proscenium while watching the actors onstage makes him invisible to the other characters). Many of the scenes feel scattered, and the pacing is confusing. When Mother meets otto’s girlfriend Maureen (Natalia Payne), the conversation between the two is almost impossible to follow, and while Mother’s casual racism does elicit some awkward laughter from the audience, the escalating conflict is not entertaining to witness.
The cast overall is strong, with Booth and Sadleir delivering strong performances as OTTO and otto, respectively and Murray giving a spot-on performance as the befuddled Dr. Payne does what she can with the role of Maureen, but she doesn’t have much to work with. And Ashley truly shines as Mother, with her wild hair and heaving bosoms enhancing the incredible confusion of this inexplicable woman. But the last scene, which includes the return of the boys’ father, is purely bizarre, and the intention of the show is never clear. Me, Myself and I leaves the audience unsatisfied, with more questions than answers.