Play: “The Mineola Twins”
Group: Muddy Waters Theatre
Venue: Kranzberg Theatre, Big Brothers Big Sisters Bldg., 501 North Grand
Dates: June 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
Tickets: $25; contact 314-799-8399 or www.muddywaterstheatre.com
Story: Myrna and Myra are identical twin teens in the Eisenhower administration, except that they are polar opposites in personality. And there’s that difference in chest sizes, too, with Myrna most amply endowed while Myra resembles the proverbial pancake. Myrna is ultra-conservative in her beliefs, looking for Mr. Right in their home town of Mineola, New York, while Myra beds down the entire high school football team. When Myra adds Myrna’s frustrated boyfriend Jim to her conquests, though, Myrna seeks vengeance against her promiscuous sister in what becomes a decades-long battle.
While Myra joins various left-wing causes, legal or otherwise, Myrna strives to raise Kenny Jr. as best she can during the Nixon administration. High stress levels, however, can cause Myrna to cause electrical surges in her immediate vicinity and she becomes the subject for some psychotherapy. Eventually she stabilizes enough to become a nationally known conservative talk show host admired by many, including her nephew Ben, in the years of the first Bush administration. It’s an impromptu meeting with Ben that provides Myrna with some information useful to her in her newest right-wing cause that could carry tragic consequences.
Highlights: Continuing its season of presentations of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, Muddy Waters Theatre’s current offering is an amusing production of Vogel’s 1996 comedy that looks at four decades of American political and social extremes through the prism of disparate twins. Anchored by a winning performance by company co-founder and co-artistic director Patty Ulrich as the polar opposite but equally impassioned sisters, this interpretation provides an engaging enactment of Vogel’s broad and bemused satire of 20th century America and particularly the changing role of women in society.
Other Info: Cameron Ulrich, Patty’s husband and the company’s other co-founder and co-artistic director, smoothly blends the talents of his wife and the rest of the small cast to keep this comedy percolating smoothly for its two hours and two acts. Patty in particular moves deftly between the sexually and emotionally repressed Myrna and the carefree and careless Myra to explore the outrageous comedy inherent in Vogel’s script. In the last scenes of the show, she’s also a woman in constant motion, keeping the wardrobe folks in the back plenty busy as she alternates between parts as the sisters have a confrontation of sorts.
Jamie Marble lends solid support, first as Myrna’s earnest if sexually frustrated boyfriend Jim and later as Myra’s lesbian lover Sarah. With the meticulous assistance of hair and makeup designer Samantha Toledo and costume designer Keaton Treece, Marble effectively plays both parts in a subdued fashion that ironically works quite well for the exaggerated script.
Andrew Kuhlman also plays two roles in hilarious form. As Myrna’s tightly controlled son, Kenny, he delights in the antics of his renegade aunt and comically involves himself in her exploits. As Myra’s own son, Ben, Kuhlman finds the humor in Ben’s bonding with his right-wing Aunt Myrna as he attempts to get her autograph on a copy of her latest political manifesto.
Satia Hutton and Carrie Dougherty have fun as the silent chorus, dressing up as various G-Men or other background figures hunting Myra or trailing Myrna as they pursue their respective political and social agendas.
Tony Anselmo’s lighting accentuates the minimal props that adorn the spartan stage, which serves primarily as the foreground for Joshua Thomas’ delightfully impish projection design. Thomas’ background videos and artwork range from a 1950s documentary instructing schoolchildren how to react to an atomic attack to amusing illustrations that accentuate the eras of the Mineola twins. Jerry McAdams’ sound design provides complementary background sounds, although his curious selection of contemporary tunes seems culled from “oldies but not so goodies” instead of livelier hits, with the exception of a Beatles snippet.
Vogel’s “Mineola Twins” is a broad, satirical look at how women changed their role in American society, moving forward through both liberal and conservative eras, in a battle of minds and hearts that continues today. That look is both goofy and amusing in the quaint rendition presented with the Ulrich’s inspired flair.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.