By Kathryn Hunter, Paul Hunter, and Edward Petherbridge; Directed by Kathryn Hunter
Produced by Told by an Idiot, Young Vic, and Theatre Royal Plymouth
Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 6.28.15
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 6.19.15
Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge in My Perfect Mind. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
BOTTOM LINE: Esteemed actors Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter blow the roof off the house with their whirlwind of talent and humor.
I have always had the desire to play billiards with the late Jerome Lester Howard, aka Curly from The Three Stooges, but I now have to rethink my daydream. I revel in the thought of sitting down to a cup of hot tea with one spectacular Mr. Edward Petherbridge. Hopefully Paul Hunter will be close at hand if I really want to kick my heels up and enjoy myself.
These two men are the marvelous talents and writers (with Kathryn Hunter) of My Perfect Mind. The storyline is based around truth. On the second day of rehearsal to play the massive role of Shakespeare's King Lear, Petherbridge suffered from a stroke. Half of his body was paralyzed. This production jumps back and forth in time during his rehabilitation. At times he is under the impression that he is in reality King Lear, while other times he knows he is an actor. With convoluted memories we observe scenes from King Lear between interactions from throughout his life.
Petherbridge has an impressive resume as an Olivier Award-winner, a two-time Tony Award nominee, and the original Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Not only that, but he is a co-founder, with Ian McKellen, of the Actors' Company. It is no wonder that his credits are so prestigious, considering that he uses his mind, body, and voice with such clarity and ease that he clearly read these tools' instruction manual cover to cover. With Hunter added to the mix I was even more starstruck. His credits include performing at some of Britain's most noteworthy theatres, such as the West End, Young Vic, and Shakespeare's Globe.
I sat down at 59E59 expecting to watch a tragedy; I was pleased to find out I was incorrect in my assumption. Yes, there are parts that made me sad, but in addition to the deeper meanings, there was humor spliced in to each scene. My laughter came from deep within my gut and erupted from me a lot louder than those seated in close proximity to me. I certainly was not laughing alone though. There is a plethora of content for people from all walks of life. What My Perfect Mind really made me think about is the inclusion of simple additions for entertainment value paired with deeper meanings for those who stop and contemplate the interactions on the stage.
There are older references, modern ones, along with theatre quips, but what is really wonderful about this stream of consciousness that is My Perfect Mind is the fact that the actors can laugh at themselves as they elaborate and make mention of the fact that only the elderly are laughing at a joke. There were times where I lost track of what was going on, but with their pacing and ease of communication it is clear there is a purpose to each and every component. As a result, my occasional confusion didn't detract from the entertainment value or deeper meanings they convey. When all is said and done, though it's their accents that draw you in, I'm sitting on my couch reminiscing about Paul Hunter's arabesque and Edward Petherbridge's brilliant impression of a gnat.
(My Perfect Mind plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through June 28, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $70 and are available at 59e59.org or by calling 212.279.4200.)