Tuesday, November 11, 2008



By Anthony Horowitz. Dir. Ken Russell. SoHo Playhouse. (CLOSED)

(Critic-O-Metered by Isaac Butler)

Camp classic? Infamous disaster? Best set ever? These are the questions the critics are pondering about this new thriller, which is most notable for being the Off-Broadway debut of '70s-'80s schlock-art director Ken Russell. One thing is for sure: No one likes Anthony Horowitz's play. Even Talkin' Broadway's Matthew Murray--whose bizarrely enthusiastic review is the only reason the show didn't score in the D range overall--concedes that it's the production, not the text, that makes this a don't-miss.

TalkinBroadway B+
(Matthew Murray) Horowitz's tangled narrative is never as clever as it thinks it is, but Russell and [scenic designer Beowulf] Boritt could themselves well be accused of overcompensating, making the show far more of a show than it should be. If not for those inventions, most of which you observe via the corner of your eye, this play might be seen more easily as the brandy-spiked trifle it is--but because they can't be overlooked, a mild curiosity becomes a must-see. Even if you hate yourself in the morning, it's hard to overdose on Mindgame's mind candy.

Variety C+
(Marilyn Stasio) A claustrophobic thriller set in a lunatic asylum, Mindgame is so goofy it's almost fun. One of the two main characters in Anthony Horowitz's Hammer Horror-inspired drama, the director of the asylum and a pulp crime writer, may be a serial killer, and it's up to us to figure out which one. (With Keith Carradine and Lee Godart in these Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing roles, it's a toss-up.) But more imagination has gone into the tricky set than into the plot, and despite some stabs at realistic horror, helmer Ken Russell can't quite stop himself from tipping the whole thing into farce.

TheaterMania D+
(Dan Bacalzo) Mindgame includes a number of plot twists, hidden secrets coming to light, and mysterious goings-on. But much of it is far too predictable, and Russell's directorial choices are often questionable. For example, during one climactic scene, sound designer Bernard Fox's background music swells to a fever pitch, only to cut off abruptly once the "scary" moment passes, provoking a few giggles in the audience. Even more egregious, the closing moment of the show should be somewhat disturbing, but that quality is undermined by a ludicrously melodramatic staging of it.

NY Post D+
(Frank Scheck) Unfortunately, what might have been outrageous fun is instead laborious, due to the excessively talky and overly gimmicky script, the slow pacing and the gruesome violence on display. Not helping matters are the decidedly low-budget production elements that defeat the committed efforts of both the director and cast.

Backstage D
(David Sheward) Horowitz's shallow suspenser is an attempt at the kind of theatrical cat-and-mouse game once popular on our boards and in the playwright's native Britain. Sleuth and Deathtrap are the most recent examples of the genre to achieve hit status on Broadway, and Perfect Crime is still chilling theatregoers Off-Broadway. Those plays are like intricate Chinese puzzles, tantalizingly difficult to fit together. But Mindgame's tricks are so easy to figure out that they provide no treats.

Associated Press F
(Michael Kuchwara) One of the play's more intriguing features is its contracting set, a cozy office designed by Beowulf Boritt. Without giving too much away, let's just say that it has more theatrical life—and movement—than anything else on stage.

Time Out NY F
(Adam Feldman) Perhaps the looniest stage failure of the year, Mindgame is dinner theater served with an emetic...The audience treats the whole show as a comedy, laughing openly at descriptions of torture and cannibalism and at the sight of a tied-up woman pleading for her life...The play manages to be at once mundane and bizarre: in every sense, insanely dull.

Talkin' Broadway B+ 11; Variety C+ 8 ; TheaterMania D+ 5; NY Post D+ 5; Backstage D 4; AP F 1; TONY F 1; TOTAL: 31 / 7 = 4.43 = (D)

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