Paul McKenna's Hypnotic World -- A Comedy of the Mind will end its Broadway run April 27 as scheduled, after 16 performances.
A hypnotist and motivational consultant to such stars as guitarist Ron Wood, boxer Frank Bruno and golfer Nick Faldo, McKenna is a comic hypnotist, albeit one who wants audiences to laugh with his subjects and not at them. "During this show" he said in a statement, "the mask of one's everyday personality can be moved aside, and the richly creative possibilities of the unconscious mind shine through." In McKenna's vignettes, the suggestible subjects become everything from horses to Martians to rock stars. Gags include an audience member who keeps losing his scarf -- and winds up with two dozen wrapped `round his neck, and a "Dating Game" sketch wherein the three candidates try to be as loathesome as possible so as not to win the girl.
McKenna hosts a high-rated BBC television show and has toured his stage show all over the world.
According to spokesperson Peter Cromarty, McKenna initially gets a hundred or so volunteers up onstage and then narrows them down to the ones he can work with. "What Copperfield is to magic, Paul McKenna is to hypnosis."
McKenna explained to Playbill On-Line (March 5), "I was always interested in yoga, meditation based on Buddhist practices. So I was working in radio in Cambridgeshire and interviewed a hypnotist, and he put me under...I felt so relaxed afterwards. It's the focusing of attention on one idea to the exclusion of all others. I went home, borrowed a book and learned about it. Then I started hypnotizing friends to stop them from smoking and the like. Inevitably I'd be at a party where they'd say make Fred be a belly dancer, and we'd all fall down laughing." "Continued McKenna, "It started getting very popular, so I went out and hired a theatre and did it there. Then I started working in London and working on the radio at the same time. This big rock promoter in Britain, Harvey Goldsmith, was interested in non-traditional acts. So he hired a 2,000-seater, and we just took off from there, including the TV series."
Asked if it was risky to assume that hypnosis would always work on strangers from the audience, McKenna replied, "I'm never concerned that it won't work. Either people come to see hypnotism or be hypnotized; all the participants are volunteers, even if they might be skeptical. Hypnosis is very hip in England right now, a very big thing. Broadway is a challenge, but it's so exciting to try it here." If the limited engagement goes well, McKenna hopes to extend or find a different New York venue.
Those interested in McKenna's company, McKenna-Breen, which is the largest hypnosis training center in the world, might want to check out his website, http://www.paulmckenna.com.
For tickets ($35) and information call (212) 307-4100.