It’s great being scared, tickled, knocked-off balance…and made to think. All this and more happens when you step into the small Soho Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) for Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame. Featuring the stunning three-person cast of Keith Carradine, Lee Godart and Kathleen McNenny, this thriller has you guessing until the end. With the spate of all those movie-made-into musicals on Broadway, it’s nice to see something of the psychological thriller variety, with just enough blood and implied nastiness to get one really squirming.

It’s hard to really tell you what this play is about without giving away the delicious surprises, but the main set-up is: a writer of serial killer biographies comes to a UK insane asylum hoping to interview one of its inmates for his latest book. What happens in the two hours is twisted fun. The first act felt a little long, but there was certainly full-steam-ahead craziness by the second. Carradine is superb; from The Will Rogers Follies to his singer/songwriter career, to TV and movies and now this over-the-top mayhem, is there anything this guy can’t do? Lee Godart and Kathleen McNenny are just as good (albeit McNenny has a much smaller role, but some juicy moments).

Making his directorial debut for the NY stage, Ken Russell (of Tommy, Altered States and The Devils movie fame) sets his characters in just the right places for all the fun to happen. It’s really a tight one-set stage and Carradine’s weird lanky physicality, McNenny’s bouncy seeming-naughtiness and odd vocal changes and Godart’s beleaguered gentleman then lumbering menace, would have resulted in quite a clunky mess in lesser hands then Russell’s. The technical aspects of Mindgame add to the play just as much as the acting and directing, so much so I fear it would have been a flatter piece without the fantastic talents of Bernard Fox’s sound, Jason Lyons’ lighting and Beowulf Boritt’s set design. A word of warning, one must pay attention to everything on the stage, from the beginning to the end of the play, to really understand what is happening.

I can see why Mindgame had such a successful run in the UK; it really is a tightly written, small cast romp that’s unlike almost anything ‘out there’ these days. Even if you figure out what’s going on, you’re never really sure (even at the end) of what you saw, whether it was an envelope or carpet (you’ll get that reference after you see the play), but you’ll be sure of one thing, that you had a great time squirming through Mindgame.

Ralph Greco, Jr.

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