BWW Reviews: Spooky Action Theater's Thrilling THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY
Can a play marked by ambiguity be successfully told? Are memory and imagination two opposing or complimentary forces? Both are questions which inhabit and seek to be answered in Spooky Action Theater's riveting production of Tennessee Williams' The Two-Character Play.
What's most fascinating about The Two-Character Play is the layer of depth Williams inserted into such a simple story, told as a play-within-a-play. The Two-Character Play concerns brother and sister actors Felice and Clare who are stranded in a theater "of a state unknown." Abandoned by their acting troupe, they alone are left to perform "The Two-Character Play" before an audience.
Throughout The Two-Character Play we come to question much of the action on-stage. Why are Felice and Clare abandoned? Does the audience in the play exist? If not, then why are Felice and Clare still locked inside the theater? Their performance-within-a-performance of "The Two-Character Play" adds to our questions as it too involves a brother and sister named Felice and Clare. While the actors that we see playing Felice and Clare are not locked in a theater, why does the play's story of the two siblings in a southern home following the gruesome death of their parents seem all too real?
The beauty of The Two-Character Play is that with every answer, we seem to receive another question. Spooky Action Theater's production is riveting in how well it showcases this aspect of the play. David Bryan Jackson and Lee Mikeska Gardner give wonderfully nuanced and cryptic performances as Felice and Clare. These aren't easy roles to play as both must waltz in-between reality and illusion, never fully landing in either. With Jackson we see a Felice who's attempting to command the reality of the situation both on and off-stage. Gardner's Clare is only too quick to assert herself when Felice is around, and yet exerts terror in the mere moments she's left alone. Together, they convey the intensity of the sibling relationship, showcasing their own quest to be independent while also being dependent on the other.
Director Richard Henrich has done a terrific job staging the piece. This is a substantial task considering that the prose in Williams' script ranges from poetic to stunted, humorous to tragic. Set Designer JD Madsen and Lighting Designer Brian S. Allard have created a production that is hauntingly intimate. The half finished set, obscure large statue and props which adorn the stage and ghost-light shining slightly off-stage all add to the enigma surrounding The Two-Character Play. Why is there a half-finished set if a performance of "The Two-Character Play" is to commence?
In writing The Two-Character Play, Williams had sought to create something different from his previous works. Ironically though with The Two-Character Play, one can see a subtle influence from his first big hit The Glass Menagerie. However, where Menagerie concerns the memory of one character, The Two-Character Play intertwines the memories of two characters against the background of fear, illusion, isolation and reality.
Early in Act I, Clare asks Felice when are they going home? Felice responds, "Clare, our home is a theater, anywhere there is one." We're left to wonder if their confinement in the theater is a sense of security or terror. It's clear throughout The Two-Character Play that the theater may be their only true sense of reality.
Spooky Action Theater does a brilliant job encompassing these many elements with terrific acting and solid direction. Their production of The Two-Character Play was thrilling to watch and this production of a classic Williams' play is not to be missed!
Runtime is one hour and forty-five minutes with one intermission.
The Two-Character Play is scheduled to go thru October 27. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit www.spookyaction.org.
Pictured: Lee Mikeska Gardner. Photo by Franc Rosario.