Bruce Guthrie and Alan Hruska’s The Man on Her Mind, adapted by Hruska from his 2012 British play, isn’t stagy as much as stilted. The quartet of malcontents at its center are well-bred, riddled with tics and dripping with neuroses, quaint types who address siblings as “my dear,” “darling,” and “sister.”
The comic conceit is that young loner Nellie (Amy McAllister), a commitment-phobic Big Apple publisher, rejects the flirtations of a persistent bohemian ghostwriter named Leonard (Samuel James), yet happily imagines she’s dating a slicker, smugger, more casual version of him, whom she calls Jack (also played by James).
Meanwhile, Leonard, an aspiring author, invents a sweeter doppelgänger of Nellie (McAllister, again). His nosy, nagging neighbors — Nellie’s sister (Georgia Mackenzie) and brother-in-law (Shane Attwooll) — encourage him to keep pursuing the real Nellie. Will these two shed their childish hang-ups and find love and happiness? And if so, what will happen to their alter egos? (This theme was explored to more intriguing effect in the recent Twilight Zone-esque romantic comedy The One I Love.)
With its incessant existential babbling and dopey fantastical episodes — in which the apparitions themselves meet and quarrel in Central Park — The Man on Her Mind has a terminal case of the cutes. The actors, especially James, are a little showy; there hasn’t been this much shrieking and facial contorting on-screen since Jim Carrey’s turn in The Mask. That said, McAllister has a wry, sarcastic delivery.
And one of Hruska’s set pieces is a doozie: Trying to boot the clingy Leonard out of her house, Nellie serves him “the smallest cup of water,” which the camera dutifully zooms in on.