SLAMDANCE 2021 Premiere – Two gritty, grizzled New York actors are fighting a losing battle against the beast that is Parkinson’s disease. A disease of the central nervous system with rapidly cycling symptoms, both Dan Moran and John Christopher Jones feel their dexterity and mental acuity slipping away. As one last hurrah, they make an arrangement with Samuel Beckett’s estate for a special one night only performance of Endgame, Beckett’s esoteric post-apocalyptic dissertation on the state of human life, and suffering, and death. A mightily timely piece for both actor’s to perform as they fight the ravages of a disease that struck them down in their primes–and is taking their livelihood and passion away from them minute by minute. Brave and brash, Jones and Moran jump with both feet into the performance of their lives.
Jim Bernfield’s documentary Me to Play doesn’t shy away from the crushing blows of a disease that strips you of everything that makes us who we are. Moran longingly reflects on his physicality and his acting style, both impossible now coping with the disease. Jones mourns the way his children will soon have more years of memories of him ill than well. Both men’s wives reflect on the way they’ve gone from partner to caretaker, in an unthinkable future for them and their families. The creative team behind the show deftly navigate the highs and lows of their actors–supporting them through bad days and cheering them through good. There is a gentle, loving quality to every player in this fantastic tale–in spite of the undertones of sadness and pain. Everyone operates from a place of love–which is, in turn, lovingly shared through delicately intimate interviews and candid moments of joy and sorrow.
Jones and Moran, through tribulations, tears, and angry outbursts, fight tooth and nail against their plight, to make it to what both imagine to be their last chance at treading the boards. The actors met in the mid-90s while sharing a dressing room during a Broadway production of A Month in the Country. How little they knew then–that one day they’d be working together again–and battling the same insidious disease.
Triumphant and touching, Me to Play is as honest as it gets. Both actors are charming beyond belief, juggling their rehearsals, their families, and their medical care. Vulnerable moments from doctor’s appointments to cooking dinner with the family are shared with the same honesty and depth as the play production itself. In fact, this documentary is as much about real life as it is about the production–and by the time we get to the performance, we are cheering and weeping for our actors, rooting for their ultimate, glorious success. Me to Play is a beautiful tribute to the passion of actors, the commitment of families, and the support of the New York theatre community.
Me to Play is currently playing at Slamdance 2021.
9 out of 10
|Me to Play|
|Directed By:||Jim Bernfield|