Out Of My Mind
nytheatre.com review by Matthew Freeman
August 14, 2007
Doug Vogel is a "Master Practitioner in the art and science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis." I'm not sure if any of that means "excellent therapist," but his decision to act out onstage, with his patient, Marvin Novogrodski, seems to cross all sorts of traditional patient-therapist boundaries. Perhaps if I was more familiar with Neuro-Liguistic Programming, I wouldn't be such a prude. As it is, I couldn't help but think: "Who is this helping? Is this a commercial?"
Medical ethics aside, Marvin Novogrodski's brainchild Out of My Mind is an exploration of his psyche, for the benefit of FringeNYC enthusiasts that make their way to the Cherry Lane. It offers up scenes that come directly from his therapy sessions. On its own terms, it does reveal a great deal about Novogrodski as an artist and a human being. As a piece of theatre, it seems busy and unfocused at times, and a little dramaturgy might be in order.
Novogrodski, himself, is an appealing and energetic performer. While he can wander a bit too often into mugging for the audience, he's also fearless about making himself look foolish and disarmed. Vogel, for his part, is not a natural actor, but when he's in the midst of his performance-therapy, he becomes far more comfortable and confident.
Out of My Mind falters when it becomes overburdened with characters and stage business. Synchronized speech, dancing, juggling, rhyming, impersonations—it becomes a grab-bag of conceits without a single narrative. The ending, therefore, comes as a bit of a surprise. We don't see Novogrodski learn anything new, and aren't offered revelations that go beyond his personal journey, so when the final blackout comes, it comes mid-thought.
The most moving moments in this hour-long piece come when Novogrodski relays, as himself, a few stories from his own life. In those moments (far too few) he seems genuinely invested and moved, to have a clear point of view about his family and himself. He stops seeming to care that we think he's entertaining, and starts expressing something truthful. It's then that he achieves an intimacy from the audience that his clowning fails to engender.