Alan Hruska’s adaptation of his stage comedy has as its heroine a New York fiction editor, Nellie (Amy McAllister), whose brain has perhaps been poisoned by reading too many outlandish manuscripts from the slush pile. Hruska, with a background in law and publishing, is vague about Nellie’s work life, however; she’s basically a creature of her cramped, book-lined apartment, where she waits for her confident, expensively suited lover Jack (Samuel James) to arrive. It doesn’t take long for us to gather that Jack is not what he seems, and it’s at about that same point that Nellie’s suburban sister and brother-in-law (Georgia Mackenzie and Shane Attwool) attempt to stage an intervention. Jack’s not the man for you, they insist. What about Leonard—the guy we tried to set you up with?
That Leonard, a mysterious but affluent Long Island nebbish, is also played by James provides your first clue that Hruska is crossing genres here. There’s a bit of sitcom humor, a splash of Woody Allen’s bathwater, echoes of Aristophanes, the specter of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, and more than one doppelganger afoot. None of it holds together very well; instead of a play in three acts, it’s more like three unrelated one-acts that happen to share a cast. And about that cast: Though Hruska is a New Yorker, he originally staged this play in London, then filmed it here with the same four performers. Their accents apparently drowned during the Atlantic crossing, save for Mackenzie’s Five Towns vowels. (If you’re gonna go broad, go broad.)
Nellie’s overactive imagination—“I don’t like real”—is never fully explained; nor does her inheritance of her mother’s luxury apartment, where she won’t move in, satisfactorily mesh into the plot. Whenever Hruska’s script runs into a dead end, he simply cuts to the skyline and cues up a sappy ballad. As vanity productions go, this is pretty inoffensive stuff; you just wish it were smart enough to seize on one idea and really run with it. (If Nellie can have one dream lover, why not several?) The Man on Her Mind also suffers greatly by comparison to the current The One I Love, in which the fantastical elements finally congeal into a real parable of selfishness. That’s the kind of magic that Nellie ought to be publishing and Hruska filming. Too bad nobody wrote it for them. Opens Fri., Sept. 12 at Varsity. Not rated. 98 minutes.