Written by Kathryn Hunter, Paul Hunter & Edward Petherbridge
Directed by Kathryn Hunter
Days away from fulfilling his lifelong dream of performing the title role in KING LEAR, veteran actor Edward Petherbridge was afflicted with two strokes. Though it took time to get some of his motor functions back, Petherbridge, remarkably, retained every word of the play. MY PERFECT MIND is the story of his journey back to health and the eventual fruition of his theatrical aspirations.
Well, sort of. The subject is, after all, Petherbridge’s mind, not his “life story” in the traditional sense. And minds don’t move linearly. The narrative weaves in and out from past to present, through the England of Edward’s childhood to a 21st Century rehearsal hall in New Zealand, even to the afterlife, where Sir Laurence Olivier offers a few choice words of advice. The mercurial Paul Hunter plays, with unflagging zeal, all the characters other than Edward. The cavalcade includes – among others – an zany neuroscientist, an ebullient theater impresario, and a Romanian immigrant working as a housekeeper despite having received a high level of education on her home country. The theatrical “fourth wall” is expanded and collapsed as easily as a gentleman’s umbrella as the two seasoned performers meditate on the nature of theater itself. These quirky encounters are accompanied by generous helpings of the Bard, and Petherbridge fuels his Lear with a musicality and psychological spontaneity that illuminates the potency and evergreen relevance of Shakespeare’s poetry.
In the age of tell-all biographies, it’s refreshing to see this novel approach to the act of self-examination. And if the story meanders a bit too much for its own good, the eccentric charm of the actors mitigates the lack of cohesion. .As Petherbridge rummages through his mental attic, he strikes the occasional note of gentle melancholy. Ultimately though, he emerges from the process with few regrets. Reflecting on all the ups and downs, false starts and fleeting glories of his career, he seems secure in the belief that a life in the theater is a life well spent.
MY PERFECT MIND continues through June 28, 2015 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. Tickets: 212-279-4200 or online at 59E59.ORG.