Review: MIND OVER MATTER at The Rec Room

Beyond Mental Borders reads you like a book in a fun series of mind games

By: Feb. 19, 2024
Review: MIND OVER MATTER at The Rec Room
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“This isn’t a magic show,” warns the cast of Mind Over Matter, the new mentalism/mind game show from Beyond Mental Borders at The Rec Room. Shelby Handley, Armand Antony, and Alexandra Brynn, wearing chic black and leather outfits, aren’t here to hypnotize you, or to reveal your deepest, most embarrassing secrets or bank account number. Instead, they’re here to read the miniscule cues you emit with the tiny movements of your eyes, the twitching of your facial muscles, and even the rhythm of your breathing, in order to figure out exactly what you’re thinking. Through a series of rounds inspired mostly by classic board games, they dazzle and delight an audience trying to figure out exactly how they pulled that number or word directly from the volunteer’s brain.

Mind Over Matter has expanded to three members after its original duo (Antony and Brynn) were separated due to the pandemic. This brand new show with all new games is the first time all three have performed together live on stage. In some ways, it shows; the three of them will likely up their banter game when they have spent more time together as a trio and grow more comfortable with the playful patter. But, the question is, can they read your mind? The answer is, seemingly, yes, they can; except for one single letter in one instance, on opening night, every prediction was perfect.

It's hard to review a show that depends on surprise and audience participation, for fear of spoiling the experience. In broad terms, the variety of the half-dozen games is enough to maintain interest, and the use of both nostalgic board games and films is a nice touch that gives the 80-minute show some structure. The team made predictions involving audience choices of numbers, people, places, things, colours, and even potential murder suspects. I had fun testing how much my initial responses overlapped with the volunteers’; some were close, but overall there wasn’t enough overlap to convince me that people just tend to choose the same answers—except for one number, which the mentalists specifically instruct the volunteer to avoid to make guessing more interesting for themselves.

You can also have a lot of fun watching for cues yourself, or watching for cues from the mentalists as they try to ask the right questions that will push them through to a correct answer. Some are very clear, like when the mentalist asks the volunteers to envision pronouncing the first letter of the answer in their minds, resulting in eyes moving subtly in the direction of the letter, or slight throat movements as the volunteer tries not to give anything away. Other questions seem off-the-wall (“would the person you chose be holding a fish in their online dating profile picture?”), but seem to yield just as much information.

Because of the variety on display, including in how the mentalists display their predictions, the process seems more magical. Even the tiny spelling misstep only increased my enjoyment with watching the process, because it underscored how difficult that process is—and that it really is a skill, rather than a predetermined magic trick.

Make sure to come early if you want a chance of passively participating in a couple of the games, as some require participants to be photographed before the show, and the complicated nature of the reserved seats leads to about a ten-minute journey from entry to seat if you arrive with everyone else in the last ten minutes.

In the end, Mind Over Matter does exactly what it promises, and it’s a diverting 80 minutes for anyone interested in whether their thoughts can be “read” in a controlled, safe environment by a group of entertaining pros with an aptitude for associative analysis.

Mind Over Matter performs monthly at the Rec Room until November 2024. Photo of Shelby Handley and Armand Antony provided by the company.