Saturday, July 4, 2015

Inside The Mind of Me (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Watching this work, I had very mixed reactions. Honestly the more I thought about it the more mixed they remained. If anything the sensation grew.

Inside The Mind of Me frankly is the kind of work I often really enjoy--a dive into a human mind, where the boundaries of reality and dream, memory and fantasy, hope and despair blur into each other. Playwright Wade Wilson has definitely got talent! But honestly, I don't think the play works.

The essential set-up involves a character named Me (Michael Marcel), in a coma and visited by two friends--Chris (Eric Anthony) and Jessica (Brooke Maroon). Here is my first real problem with the play. Neither Chris nor Jessica ever seemed real to me. Their stories as we went along came across as the kind we should have found compelling. Yet neither one ever became more than a cardboard cutout--not the actors' faults because they seemed talented. Nor, let me emphasize, is this a thread throughout the play. On the contrary, there are a good fistful of vivid, interesting characters including Me's Grandfather Stan ( Marty Hrejsa) and his wretched train-wreck of a father Curtin (Christopher Durbin).

For example, much is made of the fact that Jessica--the most popular girl in school--fell in love during high school with Me, who was shy and considered a sissy, because he wrote a love poem to her. Never once did I understand that. Because she never ever becomes more than a cypher, almost a collection of perfectly logical plot points rather than a human being.

But within the mind of Me we meet a dreamscape a la Wonderland by way of a kind of acid trip, peopled with interesting characters and rather puzzling (in a good way!) characters wondering around. Beyond doubt the best of these were Angel (Kire Horton) a kind of bewinged hippy chick, and Circus (Graydon Schlicter) a demonic clown. Here we get one of paradoxes that I enjoyed most--are Angel and Circus part of Me's mind or do they exist outside of him? I don't know. The evidence could go either way.

Interesting, but less compelling are Death (Erin Braswell) and Loveless (Hollie Sokol) who seems to be an embodiment of primal desires--lust as opposed to love, pleasure before wisdom, the here and now rather than patience. But again, neither one quite became real to me.

But that might be the staging, at least in part. I found the design and setup generally confusing rather than paradoxical. Given the subject matter is so non-realistic, frankly there's less room for any mis-notes however slight. For example, when difference between the physical and (for lack of a better word) dream world wasn't clear enough to make any breaking of that barrier mean much. The play as it went on seemed more and more about the relationship between Me and Death--but the latter simply didn't have enough to do.

Likewise it frankly felt odd to see this tall, muscular, very handsome young man play Me, who is supposed to have been a 'loser' or nerd.  Not the actor's fault! He did well! But there's simply a limit to how many times you can hit a wrong note before the production becomes permanently muddled.

On the other hand, the audience responded very positively indeed! While I found myself seriously annoyed by the on-the-nose dialogue (I saw what the last lines were going to be a mile away and mentally screamed "SHOW DON'T TELL!") people around me almost gave the show a standing ovation! But I do wonder how much of that is due to the inherent charm and charisma of the cast. That was considerable (and a very clever, even needful decision by the director).

Still, in the end I really loved what I thought this play was trying to be. The whole thing bubbled with promise and talent, but in the end for me personally it didn't quite work.