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Film Review: Me to Play
by Karen Pecota

A once in a lifetime live performance by two famous New York stage actors, Dan Moran and John Christopher Jones, who share six decades of acting experience both suffer from the debilitating and incurable Parkinson's disease. It affects all the elements necessary for an actor to do his job--the control of movement, balance and expression. Moran has more issues with speech and Jones has more issues with physical movement. Their performance is a play from Samuel Beckett called Endgame.

Beckett understood diseases that confine one's abilities which Moran and Jones can relate to well; but, Beckett's difficult but hilarious theater piece features a character (Hamm) who is blind and cannot stand, and Clov, who can shuffle but not sit down. Hamm and Clov play out their last days of misery awaiting their inevitable end of life. Beckett uses his play as a metaphor to describe diseases like Parkinson's because his mother and aunt were plagued with the disorder. He knew first-hand the difficulties when the body and brain have difficulty functioning normally.

The Beckett Estate granted this production the right to not only to perform this play but to make it the basis for a documentary film from filmmaker Jim Bernfield in Me to Play.

As an act of bravery Moran and Jones prepare for their one-night performance in a theater Off-Broadway. Bernfield directs and produces the documentary film Me to Play that captures this extraordinary performance. Bernfield follows the actors several weeks prior to, during and after their live performance. The audience learns what it is like for Moran and Jones to pursue the craft they love; in conjunction with new hurdles facing their daily routine while preparing for a performance made more difficult because of Parkinson's.

Some wondered if this one-night stand would be their theatrical swansong. One could imagine it considering the circumstances; but since the performance, their road less traveled has taken on new heights promoting Parkinson's awareness.

More than a million Americans are afflicted with Parkinson's adding 50,000 - 60,000 new diagnosed cases annually. The symptoms are uniquely different in each person--expressionless face, jerky movements, slurred speech, trembling hands and only get worse over time.

Moran and Bernfield met years earlier at a sports bar watching the 49ers football team with other fans living in New York. They would often share news about their various projects in the arts each seeking advice from the other while continuing to watch football together. One day Moran tells Bernfield he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Bernfield knew what that meant because his dad suffered with the debilitating illness.

Bernfield recalls, "When he told me he was pairing up with Chris Jones, another veteran actor with Parkinson's to read Endgame, a play reflecting the disease through Samuel Beckett's eyes, I knew I needed to be involved so that I could spread that legacy my father left." Adding, "This film is a message to every family member, of every family, from Samuel Beckett: "I can't go on. I'll go on."