In Daniel Kitson’s newest one-man show, Mouse: The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought, a fictitious rodent becomes the bait that draws two men into dialogue with each other, and the audience into Kitson’s intricately woven narrative universe. Kitson is a British “narrative theater” artist, solo performer, and stand-up comedian, and here plays William, a writer whose current project follows a strange encounter between an unnamed woman and the mouse caught in her household trap, whom she befriends and ultimately sets free. Kitson also plays the disembodied voice of Billy, a stranger who calls William’s landline, starting up speakerphone conversation that lasts until dawn.
Over the course of the night, a set of similarities emerge between the two men that grows increasingly uncanny. Their pasts mirror each other closely, and in unusual ways — both had flats above a chicken restaurant at one point, for example — but they now lead very different lives. They share a sense of creeping isolation, William in his day-to-day work as a writer and Billy in his busy life as a husband and parent. Each finding something of himself in the other, the two come to reflect on the choices large and small that amount to a life. Despite the characters’ mutual loneliness, the atmosphere of the play stays buoyant throughout. Kitson occasionally steps out of character to chat playfully with the audience and detail William’s backstory, adding yet another braided layer to an already complex script.
There are plot developments here that an intuitive reader is likely to guess, but though the script takes some predictable turns, Kitson’s performance is consistently delightful (if not always surprising). The general setup recalls the famous conceit behind Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, in which a 69-year-old man contemplates his life by listening and talking back to a taped recording of his voice from thirty years earlier. But the mood of Kitson’s script is lighter, closer to his roots in stand-up comedy than the sort of brooding melancholy Beckett made famous, with some especially sharp jokes cracked about parenthood, marriage, and conventional gender roles.
Only occasionally does this set of deftly interlaced shaggy-dog stories start to feel a bit too shaggy. Some more compression would help streamline things at the outset, to avoid the feeling of an overly drawn-out conclusion, but Mouse still manages to capture the audience’s imagination in a sticky, sweet, entertaining trap of a play.
Mouse: The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought
Written and performed by Daniel Kitson
St. Ann’s Warehouse
45 Water Street, Brooklyn
Through November 27