Hibernian’s ‘Identity Crisis’ is original, but uneven

David Josef Hansen and Richard Caines in a scene from Peter Snoad's "Identity Crisis." Photo: Clennon King

David Josef Hansen and Richard Caines in a scene from Peter Snoad’s “Identity Crisis.” Photo: Clennon King

ROXBURY — Playwright Peter Snoad had a very original concept for a play, but at times the execution of his ideas falls short in “Identity Crisis,” a production of Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.

Snoad is the visiting playwright at Hibernian Hall and this is his third production at the facility. His tale is about a growing phenomenon that no one wants to talk about: affluent white people are turning black, although the mainstream media doesn’t seem very aware of it or is deliberately downplaying it.
One of those who has already turned black is a man named Frankie White (Richard Caines), who shows up at the Boston apartment of his 30-something friend Alan Guthrie (David Josef Hansen).

Sheree Galpert and Sochi Fried in Hibernian Hall's "Identity Crisis." Photo: Clennon King

Sheree Galpert and Sochi Fried in Hibernian Hall’s “Identity Crisis.” Photo: Clennon King

Alan is quite startled, because the last time he saw Frankie — who is to serve as best man at his wedding — he was black.
But the turnover has happened to Frankie and, as he closely observes telltale signs on Alan’s body, it’s about to happen to Alan — on the eve of his wedding to Marcia Silberstein (Sochi Fried), who seems to be a sweet, caring type much in love with Alan.
There may be a problem, because Alan’s prospective father-in-law would never allow his daughter to marry a black man. Solution? Alan being able to persuade his identical twin brother David, who happens to be gay, to impersonate him at the ceremony.
That allows Snoad to include multiple cases of mistaken identity, as Alan and his co-conspirators embark, as press notes describe it, “on a madcap pre-nuptial adventure involving organic vegetables, ventriloquism, a golfing accident–and some serious identity issues.”
“We’re the unlikeliest couple ever,” says Marcia to her fiancee at one point, unaware they are about to become that much more unlikely.
Snoad also gives Frankie some good lines as he describes to Alan what will happen shortly after the changeover: “Your life will get a whole lot tougher.” He also allows that “white people are exhausting.”
There’s healthy doses of slapstick and farce as Hansen skillfully dashes back and forth between the two characters, his gay character of David perhaps overdoing the stereotypical behaviors, and Snoad does succumb to reaching for the tow-hanging fruit at times when it comes to a genital joke, or David’s interaction with Frankie.
Sheree Galpert provided some of the funniest moments in last summer’s “Twelfth Night” on Boston Common, and she makes Sylvia Silverstein, Marcia’s mother, a zesty, spicy dish, with her leering, lascivious looks at her future son-in-law as well as the best man.
It all makes for some funny moments, but there are other moments which fall flat or elicit a groan or two, when Snoad falls short when it comes to confronting the issues he has raised. Sometimes when you’ve taken an idea and stretch it, you find yourself out on a ledge with nowhere to go, and the result is uneven. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t.
Director Jackie Davis keeps the pace brisk and the comic timing en point for the most part, save for a couple of incidents involving pre-recorded dialogue.
Snoad does make some cogent observations about race through his characters, and they are all the more effective because they come cloaked in humor.
“Identity Crisis” has real entertainment value, despite its shortcomings.
The Hibernian Hall production of Peter Snoad’s “Identity Crisis.” Directed by Jackie Davis. At Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley St., Roxbury. Through Dec. 7 http://www.hibernianhall.org.

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