Ghostlight's 'Mindgame' takes on evil and plays tricks with fine acting ... and some odd inconsistencies 

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, through Nov. 13
Ghostlight Theatre Club
3110 N. Walker

"Mindgame," a tepid 1999 thriller by Anthony Horowitz, now being presented by Ghostlight Theatre Club, is set in the office of the director of a British asylum for the "criminally insane," a certain Dr. Farquhar, played with great range by Terry Veal.

The good doctor is visited by Mark Styler, the equally wide-ranging Chris Crane, an author whose specialization is serial killers, an excellent specimen of which Farquhar just happens to have on the asylum's lushly manicured grounds. (Please keep that straitjacket handy, orderly!)

It all sounds rather dreary and predictable, but the play and production surprisingly have their limited merits.
For one thing, theatergoers know that if director Lance Garrett had enough sense to cast such reliable pros as Veal and Crane, the show has something going for it. "Mindgame" doesn't exactly leave the audience reeling, but it does pay off modestly at the end.

In the first part, Horowitz contemplates our fascination with evil generally and serial killers specifically, although he seemingly doesn't have much new to say on the subject. Styler blathers on about our attraction to evil characters because "they are part of us." It's the "everyone has a dark side" thing, which is reflected in popular culture, to wit, the appeal of ghost stories and horror films. As much as we enjoy watching them, actors love to play villains.

Granted, human beings have a morbid curiosity about the most inhuman of murderers, especially when something really spicy such as cannibalism is involved. Books are written and movies are made about serial killers. They become household names: Dahmer, Gacy, Bundy.

All this is fine, but as "Mindgame" progresses, one notices odd inconsistencies and "mistakes." Props and costumes are changed inexplicably and out of character. The last scene of Act 1 and the first scene of Act 2 represent continuous action, but certain things about the costumes and props are different between them. There also are seemingly missed technical cues.

Some of these phenomena are explained early on; others are not. Think of the film "A Beautiful Mind," and you'll get the idea.

Although "Mindgame" is by no means a great play, the production is somewhat interesting and has a limited appeal. The script calls for a realistic set design, and the wainscoting and loud wallpaper of Farquhar's book-lined office are adequate in Ghostlight's modest, storefront space.

Veal and Crane are joined by Linda McDonald playing Nurse Plimpton, wearing a costume that she can hold over for Halloween, if she wants to. The English accents are generally consistent. The play is so location-specific that it would not work as anything but an English play.

It is hard to say whether the cheesiness of parts of the production is intentional: the sappy music, definitely; the splattered blood, who knows? "?Larry Laneer

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