The Operation Game History at Hasbro.com offered some insight. Unbeknownst to me, Operation was updated in 2008 to add “funatomy” parts. This means nothing to me. Changing anything about a classic game like Operation is like changing the formula to our beloved breakfast cereals. When are these companies going to learn not to f-ck with Trix, Fruit Loops, Fruity Pebbles, and they sure as hell shouldn’t mess with our board games. I can handle the breadbox, butterflies, and whatever other silly objects are in the original game, but birds and frogs? That’s exactly what our youth needs, a game informing them that when people get older and need Operations, all they have to do is remove the birds and frogs that are fluttering and leaping around in the persons body.
On Wednesday December 3rd, 2008 I drove into lower Manhattan, to review Mindgame, a play billed as a “comic psycho thriller” at the Soho Playhouse. When I see a play or movie I try to refrain from doing too much research prior to my experience in order to go into it without any preconceived notions. I won’t spoil too much and if by the end of reading this you decide to check out the play for yourself, I suggest going in with an open mind.
Mindgame is no mere mortal of a play, and while immersing yourself in it you’ll feel like you’re stomping up and down the stairs of MC Escher’s painting Relativity, never really reaching a destination. Although, those who persevere through this rich Mindgame will feel rewarded. You’ll be left with a lingering fallout of thoughts, possible conclusions, and a multitude of unanswered questions. If you don’t consider that a reward, then you should think of going to see Shrek the Musical instead.
In the lore of the play, best selling writer Mark Styler has come to a mental hospital in hopes of interviewing Eastman, a serial killer. Styler’s book Bloodbath chronicled the exploits of 9 notorious serial killers, but an interview with Eastman eluded him. Styler first has to meet with Dr. Farquhar, the head of the hospital, in order to get clearance to meet with Eastman. The enigmatic and seemingly dignified Farquhar is not aware of who Styler is, nor is he familiar with his apparent written request to interview one of his patients. The play’s comic tone grows eerie as the quest to figure out exactly what the hell is going on begins. Farquhar calls for his assistant, Nurse Plimpton, a couple of times until she finally arrives. In what seems like an outlandish ornament to the play in her pink wig, white vinyl nurses costume, fishnet stockings, and silver hooker boots, the sexy nurse isn’t just eye candy as you’ll find out. The nurse is noticeably uneasy judging by her uncomfortable chuckles that follow her dialogue.
In the events that follow, a scalpel, a vintage 1966 bottle of wine, a shopping bag from Marks and Spencer, and a straight jacket all come into play. You may have to call upon your days as household champion of Clue to sift through the conundrums that makeup Mindgame. In this case though, you can’t be sure Colonel Mustard is actually Colonel Mustard and you most definitely will not be able to rely on the old standby and blame the butler “Didit.” When we reach what seems to be a turning point in the play, there’s a revelation about one of the characters. At that moment it occurred to me that I may not have been mentally raising the right questions. I had to fine tune my thinking. After more revelations occur, it’s not obvious which one we’re supposed to believe. The play’s finale is left open to interpretation, and for that reason Mindgame is the epitome of clever and thought provoking.
Coming from a former English major, I’d say Mindgame is quite a juicy subject from a literary standpoint. I did not read the novel by Anthony Horowitz, but solely based on what I saw in the play, there’s a profuse amount of themes imbedded in it’s layers. So exactly how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of mind game? Chances are, the center will probably turn hard as a rock before you can even crack the candy coating. Don’t bite it and walk away or you’ll miss out on fully enjoying and appreciating the finer details. Here are just some of the themes of Mindgame: influence, identity, insanity, perversions, murder, contradictions, incest, homosexuality, liberation, psychoanalytic methods, cannibalism, BDSM, role reversal, deformity, self perception/public image, mind over matter, and the arousing nature and glorification of murderers like Jack the Ripper. Or it could be about none of those things. Confused?
It’s hard to believe that only 3 actors created Mindgame onstage. Keith Carradine (Will Rogers Follies, TV’s Deadwood and Dexter) seamlessly stepped into the shoes of the doctor of the mental hospital, Farquhar while Lee Godart (Skylight, Copenhagen, and TV’s All My Children) vivified Mark Styler, the writer. The pair exchanged lines with artful elegance. Both actors utilized their superb comic timing while occasionally the play’s unpredictable nature forced them to erupt into skillfully executed volatile rages. Upon her entrance, Nurse Plimpton was a welcome addition to the stage, and my nether region. The nuances of her performance are to be savored. Kathleeen McNenny has starred in Richard III for the NJ Shakespeare Festival, TV’s Law and Order, and the film School of Rock, as well as numerous other TV and stage productions. Without this incredibly adept cast, Mindgame wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.
Ken Russell directs the fine cast through the taught script of Mind game. Russell states in the director’s note in the playbill: “By the end of Act I on my first reading of Mindgame, I was ready for a small scotch. By the time I reached the grand finale, I was in need of a large one.” No matter how bemused by the script, Russell’s inspiration shines through in this well conceived production. Helping the translation from script to stage was Beowulf Boritt who has designed yet another exceptional set. The stage was set as Farquhar’s office and it contains several props and decoys of varying importance. Be perceptive and especially take a glance over at that morphing painting on the wall!
You’ll find Mindgame to be funny and suspenseful, yet mind boggling. It’s not as simple as it first seems. The play relies on atmosphere and dialogue so don’t expect big huge ensemble dance numbers. If you’re not down with perverse subject matter, or some scalpel slashing then you may want to sit this one out. The material is a bit challenging for someone who’s not a theater goer, it can be repetitive at times. The methodical nature of the script may just get you frustrated. But if you’re “all in” then pay attention to the subtle details, you may or may not need them! Is this not making sense to you? Good, that’s the point! It’s refreshing to know that much passion went into the production of Mindgame and it’s not just some slapped together stage show starring some already forgotten American idol reject. Even though it’s more to digest than recycled clichéd fare, it’s an experience you’ll be talking about for a long time so allow yourself to be engaged in the Mindgame! Back to The age old question What does it all mean? Carpet. Envelope. Wallpaper. Cigarette. Jelly. Yeah…that’s it! Intrigued?
15 Vandam Street
BTW 6th Ave & Varick
What’s your worst nightmare? That’s always been a topic of conversation that everyone has an answer to. For me, being buried alive is my absolute worst nightmare, but I don’t even have recurring dreams about it or anything, I just get crazy with the thought of it. I wouldn’t consider myself a true claustrophobic but I once bugged out in an Irish pub because it was too crowded and I was feeling faint and having loss of breath. But that’s neither here nor there. A bridge breaking and falling into the ocean while I’m driving on it seems to scare me a lot too. (Think Mothman Prophecies)
14. Flying Monkeys – Ok, I know that I already mentioned the sequel, but my first experience with anxiety came from these wacky monkeys. It only made things worse that they worked for a green faced wicked witch. All of it together really made me uneasy.
13. Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – You may think it sounds stupid, and it really wasn’t scary but this scene used to freak me out. When Marge is telling the story you know her face is gonna go ballistic soon, so I think it’s the anticipation that got to me. Go ahead into your local watering hole and tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya. I-mockery has a great animated .gif toward the bottom of the linked article.
12. Ghosts from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Ride – To the average person and even children these ghouls aren’t the least bit scary. Heck, some of them serenade us! But they are ghosts for a reason, and they are there to haunt. The ride has a definite creepy atmosphere. Because of the light blue tinge that the scarier ghosts had to them, I named them the “Blue Guys”. One of the most frightening moments of my childhood came when a ghost appeared to be sitting next to my mother and I on the ride. I wrote Disneyland because that was where I had my first experience on the ride. Linked is the best site for the Haunted Mansion, DoomBuggies.com.
11. Clue Video Board Game – Playing the game Clue wasn’t scary, but if you were fortunate enough to have the first edition of the video board game, you got to enjoy a “made strictly for the game” CLUE movie. It wasn’t as silly as the original CLUE movie, it was pretty eerie, and narrated by the butler. You played along after watching sections of the film. It was the game I played with my sister on stormy days.
10. The Intro to Tales From The Darkside the TV show – It still sends chills up and down my spine ’til this day. The narrator was so spooky, and the visuals were so eerie. “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside.” See if you can YouTube it, it’s worth watching. Don’t watch it when you’re tired and half falling asleep though because then you might have to throw your pants in the washer.
9. The Lost Boys – I can almost hear you through the computer saying that any movie with the 2 Corey’s can’t be that scary. I don’t care what people say, they were the shit in the 80’s. If you really get into this movie, it is frightening. A cult of vampires terrorizing the new guy. The movie was made with style, and a good budget so it is light years beyond other films that have similar plots. It also has great makeup, effects, and comic relief. The finale is awesome, and so is the scene where the vampires are surrounding the house and trying to grab Michael. To think it was directed by Joel “I fucked Batman in the butt” Shumacher, this movie is far from gay. Well, except for Tim Capello (the jacked guy in the band who was all oiled up singing and playing the sax.)
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street – The 1st installment was chilling. The Music, the house, the little girls with the jump rope singing “1,2 Freddy’s coming for you” terrified me as a child. But I loved it. I couldn’t get enough. Nowadays it doesn’t hold up well from a SFX standpoint, but the part where Freddy elongates his arms out really got to me. Now it’s almost laughable. But Freddy still rocks. He should have totally been the clear cut winner in Freddy vs. Jason.
7. Lady In White – (movie from 1988) Ok, Ok, Mona from Who’s The Boss wasn’t scary, more like the annoying mother in law. But then again, I’d rather Mona then Angela, now she was obnoxious. Plus Mona had that sly sense of humor which is sexy when not used against you. In this spooky story, Mona played a ghost and when she struck she looked scary. After I saw it, she haunted me every time I closed my eyes.
6. Psycho – The first time we actually see Anthony Perkins in drag with the knife in his hand as he’s about to spaz out. It was my first experience seeing a transvestite, way before I saw Rocky Horror. I was perplexed as to why such a scary, nerve racking movie like Psycho would end that way. As I grew up, I came to appreciate the horror in transvestites.
5. Darth Vader – Never before has a character been created who emanated such a presence, one I haven’t felt since…since the last time I watched the movie! You feel like you are in his presence when his scenes come around. It’s freaky. You can feel Luke’s fearfulness along with him as Vader approaches. Two scenes come to mind: In Empire, when Luke is on Degobah and has the imaginary encounter with him, as well as in Jedi when Vader activates Luke’s new saber. I almost shat.
4. Snow on a TV screen – In the 50’s I bet no one ever thought that a fuzzy screen on a TV might spell certain dreadful doom. Poltergeist is to blame for giving me the willies. As a child I would watch videotapes late at night and fall asleep only to wake up to snow on the screen because the tape finished and rewound itself. It was easy to start believing that there was ghosts in the screen especially if you stared at it for a while.
3. Halloween – The shot where Jamie Lee Curtis is looking out the window and Michael Myers is standing in between the sheets hanging on the clothesline and then POOF, he’s gone just like Houdini and shit. That’s one of the best scenes in the film. Rob Zombie alluded to it in his remake.
2. Gene Simmons of KISS – I know what you’re thinking. Jay ties everything in his life back to KISS. Well, yeah I guess I do. But that face, and that blood! When you are 5 years old, you don’t give a rats ass about the music, you just see the album covers and this demonic face staring back at you. I didn’t understand that they were wearing costumes, I though they really looked like that. What a silly boy. What started out as a little misunderstanding turned into a fixation.
1. End of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video – When MJ flashes those scary yellow eyes. I hope he doesn’t do that to the children when he’s done with them, that would be plain wrong. This really disturbed me for years. I know the Thriller video used to be #1 on every MTV top 100 countdown but it really freaked me out along with Vincent Price’s maniacal laughter. I used to think that a werewolf lived on the top shelf of my closet and when I opened the closet all I saw was those yellow eyes staring down at me. I think it was all because of being terrified of werewolves. Not Universal’s “Wolf-Man” but scarier ones. Like the TV show called “Werewolf” from 1986. It horrified me when I was a kid. I saw a copy of a few episodes recently and now it just doesn’t hold up. It was a completely awful show and not scary by today’s standards, but pretty frightening for a 6 year old. Nowadays werewolves don’t scare me unless they’re real.
I know what you’re probably saying, “I don’t think any of these things are scary” or “there’s so many more scarier things.” Well, we all have our own things that horrify us so let me know yours!!