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‘Me to Play’ review: Heartwarming documentary about Parkinson’s and the passion of acting

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”

Me to Play is an emotional documentary showing at the Slamdance Film Festival about New York actors Dan Moran and Chris Jones. The two have Parkinson’s disease and are working on what may be their final play. The two are collaborating on an Off-Broadway production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. The follow up to Waiting for Godot, Beckett’s play is about two men waiting for an unspecified end.

There are obvious parallels to Beckett’s work and director Jim Bernfield’s film. Early in Me to Play Moran and Jones discuss the similarities. Just as quickly, it becomes clear that the documentary is as much about the passion the two have for acting. Me to Play is an unflinching look into the lives of Moran and Jones. The two openly talk about the fears they have going into the production. The documentary also shows the preparation they go through. These moments give depth to the two without making the audience feel pity. The film becomes more about putting on the play than seeing two actors with a debilitating disease.

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'Me to Play' review: Heartwarming documentary about Parkinson's and the passion of acting

Which is not to say the film downplays Parkinson’s effects. This is done through archival footage and stories from the two. There is also a constant worry that Moran and Jones will be unable to complete the play. Moran even fears that audiences will think the final product is good for a pair of actors with Parkinson’s instead of their performances standing on their own merits. 

One of the motifs of Endgame is “nothing is funnier than unhappiness”. As someone posits in Me to Play, people have a tendency to make Samuel Beckett more heavy handed than necessary. Jim Bernfield’s movie is a great example. Though it tackles the concerns of its subjects, it is never unhappy and serves as an inspiration.

The Slamdance Festival is virtual February 12-25. Tickets can be purchased from the official site.

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