Mimic, written, performed and composed by Raymond Scannell and directed by Tom Creed, mixes haunting drama, poetry and storytelling. The best thing about this play is the writing. Eerily creepy, moody and poetic in style, the play begins at a pivotal moment at the tragic end of the story and then goes back to explain the journey. The play for the most part is not uplifting, as we are dealing with a character’s journey into possible lunacy. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be impressed. Mimic tells the tale of Julian Leary, the only adopted son of the Leary family, growing up in Ireland in the1980s during a time of great duress. We learn that Julian feels isolated due to his adoption, but has a unique talent for mimicking iconic figures and playing piano almost constantly and always loudly. Because of his antics, his father decides to confine that behavior to a dark cold basement where the piano is moved and an old mirror keeps him company. Filled with loneliness and despair, he further develops his skill for mimicry to the occasional delight of his mother and his adoring sister. We see snapshots of his life - his decline into drugs, successes and failures, his intense love for his sister - all the while paralleling a very desolate time in Ireland.
There is no denying that Scannell is gifted both as an actor and as a poetic writer. He uses rhythms and an innovative style in telling his story. He doesn’t ever say, “and then this happened…” ; instead he speaks in the present tense, painting pictures with words that keep you on your toes, since events may take a second to register. Throughout the play, Scannell peppers imitations of Columbo, Jimmy Stewart, his mother and other characters. His depiction of Conn, a character addicted to plastic surgery, is especially creepy.
Scannell underscores the entire play with atmospheric piano chords and sounds. This at times accentuates his performance, but its constancy throughout makes the piece feel moody, which Scannell’s energy as the storyteller also matches. I felt the piano at times keeps him at an emotional distance and I found myself sometimes wishing that he would get up from it in order to embody his characters more freely.
Scannell's eyes are decorated with a black liner and drawn lower lashes. Their wide-eyed appearance, in combination with low lighting, gives a haunting effect reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe. The set by director Tom Creed - a grand piano and a long horizontal mirror hanging directly behind the piano - proves perfect and symbolic. The line “his face caught between two parallel mirrors” makes for an interesting concept. Are we to assume the fourth wall (the audience) is that other mirror? Additionally, red siren lights hanging from the ceiling coupled with fluorescent tube lights on the floor accentuate different pivotal moments of the play.
A question arises in the play as to what type of mimic Julian might be: a batesian mimic (a harmless being mimicking a predator) or an aggressive mimic (a predator mimicking something harmless). My main question was: why did Julian become a mimic, or what caused him to become one? Sometimes great entertainers come out of highly dysfunctional families or depressed eras. We do know mimicry helped him escape Ireland in the dire 1980s for a career in the States, but where he ultimately lands is gloomy.