Albion's well-cast "Mindgame" is a twisty psychological thriller
By Michelle Kenyon
The latest production from Albion Theatre, “Mindgame” has an appropriate title. Anthony Horowitz's intense psychodrama--directed by Robert Ashton--is twisty, intense, and visceral, presenting quite a challenge for actors and directors. Albion meets that challenge in a strong, highly provocative production that's sure to keep audiences thinking.
The story begins in the office of a hospital for the criminally insane. Styler is there making notes on his tape recorder. He's hoping to meet with the director of the asylum, Dr. Farquhar--pronounced like "Far-ar" here, as the doctor insists when he arrives. Farquhar is mysterious and suspicious, seemingly not remembering a letter Styler sent requesting the meeting, and eventually being evasive and challenging when Styler reveals his desire to meet with one of the hospital's infamous patients, a known serial killer. Soon, one of the hospital's employees, Nurse Paisley, is brought into the story, seeming to be a reluctant participant in whatever Farquhar has planned. There isn't much else I can say about this story without spoiling, but it involves a series of revelations, machinations, and psychological manipulations that threaten to--and sometimes do--veer into violence.
It's a clever script, with well-drawn characters who have secrets of their own, and reveal themselves to be more than what they may seem at first, while offering a thought-provoking examination of various concepts including the treatment of mentally ill criminals, the public's fascination with true crime--and particularly serial killers--and more. This frequently twisting plot and characters present a challenge for actors and directors. Director Ashton has paced the action well, and the excellent cast brings out all the rancor, occasional wry humor, and elevating sense of sheer terror that the script provides. Nick Freed as Styler is an effective protagonist, revealing a range of emotions, and motives over the course of the story, working well with Chuck Winning, who is also superb as the cunning, manipulating, and increasingly hostile Farquhar. Nicole Angeli rounds out the cast in a convincing turn as the mysterious Paisley, offering a convincing portrayal as the characters, and the story, continue to shift and evolve.
The look and atmosphere of this production are also well-done, with an effective, detailed set by technical director Erik Kuhn, who also serves as fight choreographer. There's also excellent work from costume designer Tracey Newcomb, lighting designer Eric Wennlund, and sound designer Jacob Baxley. The technical aspects work together to help set and maintain the overall tense, confrontational drama that ensues.
“Mindgame” is certainly a disturbing story, no question. There's some difficult subject matter here, and it's not for all audiences, so anyone squeamish about depictions and descriptions of violence, torture, and murder probably will not want to see this show. Still, what is presented here is an exquisitely crafted thriller that is ideally cast and energetically staged. It's a memorable, provocative production from Albion Theatre.
Performances of “Mindgame” from Albion Theatre continue at the Kranzberg Arts Center until November 5. For more information, visit albiontheatrestl.org.