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Theatre Wed Mar 03 2010
Dog and Pony Theatre Company's The Twins Would Like to Say starts in the lobby, as the audience is greeted by Mr. Nobody (charmingly played by Nick Leininger)--the imaginary friend of a pair of twins who only speak to each other and spend their free time writing stories of Pepsi addictions and California beach parties on typewriters.
After a brief introduction to a couple parrot puppets--also products of the twins imaginations--the audience is led into a cramped hallway, flanked by mirrored walls. At the end of the hall, the twins (June and Jennifer Gibbons, played by Paige Collins, Ashleigh LaThrop) suddenly appear, dressed identically and holding hands--creepily reminiscent of the "come play with us" twins in The Shining. The crowd that is the audience then abruptly parts and pushes back against the walls (and each other) as the twins begin to march toward them in perfect unison, toward their nagging nemesis, a pair of blond girls with shrieking Welsch accents. We are immediately led to sympathize with the twins... of course they don't want to talk to anybody when everyone around them is so awful!
Suddenly the walls break apart and Mr. Nobody tells the audience to chose where they will go from there--they can go into the twin's dining room, their bedroom, or their school--and wherever they go there will be action, which means they will miss action elsewhere, but this doesn't seem to be a problem.
From that point on, the audience ambles around the large room, observing scenes for a moment or two, then moving on. Every few minutes the audience is corralled by moving mirrored walls back to a central point where the action is happening that they are not supposed to miss, and then they're off again. This is truly a play fit for a 21st century audience with attention disorders.
I was happily surprised by how smoothly the audience traffic moved. I got a sense that this production was highly choreographed--during a break in dialogue at the twins' school, for example, I could overhear the blonds harassing the twins on the other side of the room, and the moving walls never seemed to bump anyone or get in anyone's way. I've had bad experiences with promenade plays in the past, where I couldn't see anything and had no idea what was going on, but somehow that was not the case at all for The Twins.
For those who got tired of standing, there were moments of rest toward the end of the play, when the audience could sit with the twins in their bedroom and watch their captivatingly childish stories being acted out and/or projected as shadow puppets before us.
I found this play to be both hilarious and heart-wrenching, never boring, interactive but not awkward, and overall highly successful. The acting, particularly by Collins and LaThrop, was impeccable. I was impressed by how much emotion they were able to convey without ever making a sound, like in the scene where they are separated by their father and they thrash around in, on, and around their chairs, like ballerinas having painful-looking seizures or ants burning under a magnifying glass.
I look forward to revisiting this performance, mapping a different route around the space, and catching things I may have missed upon my first viewing. Next time, though, I will definitely not bring a gigantic purse. This is a fanny pack and sneakers kind of show, for sure.
You can experience What the Twins Would Like to Say now through April 25 at Steppenwolf Theatre, and while you're there, check out Adore and punkplay--the other two performances being performed in repertory with The Twins, as part of Garage Rep. Check out my preview of the show for more details about the making of the play.