Upon entering New World Stages, audience members scribble their names and deep-seated truths on paper, which are placed into two glass bowls onstage. The classified information becomes a bit in Mind Mangler, a show in which a bungling mentalist attempts to read minds and manipulate physical objects. It doesn’t go well. And neither does the show.
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, Mind Mangler is the latest comedic foray from Mischief Theatre and a spin-off of the troupe’s Magic Goes Wrong in London’s West End. This year alone, Mischief has had two other shows in New York: The Play That Goes Wrong — at New World Stages alongside Mind Mangler — and last season’s Peter Pan Goes Wrong on Broadway.
The award-winning Mischief Theatre is lauded for its slapstick humor and running gags. In Mind Mangler, there’s a recurring poorly timed sound cue and jabs at audience members. But the show lacks the spectacle of Mischief’s earlier works, with large ensembles and sprawling sets that crash and ignite with pyrotechnics when things go wrong.
The incompetent mentalist is played by Henry Lewis, the show’s co-writer and the artistic director of Mischief. He’s fresh off a disappointing two-night run at a Holiday Inn in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and eager to tighten his act in New York before performing at the Sydney Opera House. He tries to read people’s minds with his supposedly superior senses of sight, smell, and taste.