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Mindgame Gets Under Your Skin

Jordan Wright
Special to The Alexandria Times
May 9, 2011

Mark Adams (foreground), Matthew Randall, Shannon Benton. Photo Credit Doug Olmsted

Mark Adams (foreground), Matthew Randall, Shannon Benton. Photo Credit Doug Olmsted

Always willing to tread the edge and more than capable to do it, Port City Playhouse tackles the complex and grisly tightrope of Mindgame, by acclaimed English novelist and screenwriter, Anthony Horowitz.  Featuring some of the most skillful actors in our area with three-time WATCH Award nominee for lead actor, Mark Lee Adams, as Dr. Farquhar; Matthew Randall, playing journalist Mark Styler; and Shannon Benton, adding the sizzle and terror to Nurse Plimpton.

Set in a doctor’s office in 1990’s England at the country’s most notorious insane asylum, Fairfields, this drama provides the backdrop for examining a gruesome murder mystery.  In his quest to explore the relationship between good and evil, Styler hopes to secure an interview with noted serial killer and asylum inmate, Easterman, who has murdered, tortured and cannibalized his 19 victims.  Hired by BBC for an upcoming feature, Styler travels solo to this remote outpost in Sussex, to meet with the facility’s director, Dr. Farquhar.  His mission: to probe the criminal machinations of serial killers.

But Farquhar, with his experimental role-playing theories created to cure psychotics, regards Styler suspiciously and tags him as a populist writer, unable to delve into the mind of the killer.  Coincidences and clues abound, such as the gatekeeper having the same name as a known serial killer, background screams, lulling elevator music, and drawn curtains that arouse Styler’s curiosity and the two begin their danse macabre, with journalist Styler substantiating his theories by quoting Socrates, “No one ever does wrong willingly.” and the doctor refuting him by quoting Hitler, “When Hitler started out all he wanted to do was paint.”

Horowitz sets the chilling tone with references to British slasher Jack the Ripper, Andre Chikatilo known as the Butcher of Rostov, a Russian schoolteacher who murdered 52 women and children, and Milwaukee native son and erstwhile cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer.  While the dialog is tempered with some humor, you’ll be suppressing the laughter with goose bumps.

By the time the voluptuous Nurse Plimpton enters in a state of near undress and high panic, the plot most assuredly thickens.  The terrified nurse tries to surreptitiously hand a note to Styler, but the doctor notices and sets it aflame as our chance to uncover her distress fades with each passing moment.

Dr. Farquhar relishes his role, playing cat and mouse with Styler, with Mark Lee Adams convincingly channeling the ever-evolving madman.  While Styler, sympathetically portrayed by Matthew Randall, goes from hunter to hunted.  Who is Dr. Jekyll and who is Mr. Hyde?

It is a crafty conundrum for even the most practiced mystery junkies.

The plot itself provides some revelations…but are they real clues or red herrings?  Have Styler and Farquhar met before?  They both lived on Suntower Court in York during the same period.  The audience is left holding a patchwork of clues as the plot streaks on at lightening speed to more frantic and gruesome dimensions.  Have the inmates taken over the asylum?  Will they stage an uprising?  An exit becomes a closet door – a window a brick wall.  Is there no way out?  Wait and see.

On Fridays and Saturdays through May 22nd at 8:00pm.  Sundays May 15th and 22nd at 3:00pm.  Port City Playhouse at The Lab Studio Theatre at Convergence, 1819 North Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA 22302.  For ticket information call 703 998-6260 or visit


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