"Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought." Emily Dickinson
Ben Brantley's review of My Perfect Mind at The New York Times today is prompting me to read King Lear again and making me wish I could head to New York to watch Edward Petherbridge perform. Brantley explains that My Perfect Mind is "a deceptively jolly account of a traumatic chapter in the life of the actor," who suffered a stroke and was prevented from performing the King Lear he was preparing for. It's the language of the play and its vivid and accurate description of stroke that make me curious.
all the merriment spun by the two performers here, Mr. Petherbridge and Paul Hunter, is chilled by an awareness that the mind of this play’s title (which is taken from “King Lear”) is a very fallible instrument. As Mr. Hunter explains in the opening scene, when the brain suffers trauma, “it swings around inside the head until it comes to rest in what we call the drop zone.”
And to illustrate the point, Mr. Hunter flings the previously mentioned cannonball into a crate of shattered crockery.
That fear is articulated with eloquent bluntness by Shakespeare’s King Lear: “O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven.”
King Lear and My Perfect Mind will be difficult and painful for me now, but they offer insight into and perhaps clarity about an experience I have been trying to understand for almost ten years.