Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Two Short Women (Wildside)

Lost Footing
by Caitlin Murphy

Two Short Women, written and directed by Ann Lambert, follows long-time friends Debra (Debra Kirshenbaum) and Laura (Laura Mitchell) on their vacation escape to a sunny paradise.  The contrasts between the middle-aged pair are quickly established:  Laura is recently divorced with two kids, Debra is never married, childless and kinda-sorta dating; Laura is reserved and tentative, pre-occupied with the world’s injustices, and Debra is a brassy broad keen on soaking up all of life’s bounty.  

the show was plagued by rookie technical mistakes

Though the piece showed some early promise, mostly generated by Kirshenbaum’s blousy delivery, her character’s ‘fuck it all’ attitude, and the prickly chemistry between the companions, this quickly evaporated as the actors seemed to lose their footing in an increasingly meandering script.  Kirshenbaum and Mitchell often appeared shaky on their lines, or else unable to commit to them, allowing a loosey-goosey improv feeling to awkwardly set in.

In addition, the show was plagued by rookie technical mistakes – frequent and unforgivably long blackouts (sometimes in complete silence, and often for no clear purpose), unrealistic and jarring sound clips that blared into existence and abruptly cut out.  These unnecessary distractions killed momentum and felt especially out of place in a context like the Wildside Festival.
Clocking in at about 80 minutes, the piece pushed way beyond its potential, as its lack of narrative and thematic coherence wore on the audience.  The inclusion of an unnecessary rape scene felt irresponsible, and bespoke a writer playing rough-shod with capital D Drama, unable to negotiate the shifting tonal terrain of her own piece.

In a juried festival that purports to showcase the most exciting and celebrated pieces in independent theatre, including Two Short Women was premature at best, and a glaring programming error at worst.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with this review. For a different point of view, here is the review I posted on the play's Facebook page:

    The Centaur has brought Two Short Women back to Montreal this winter, after the play made a brief stop last summer in Stockholm, Sweden.

    We can all be grateful for it, because Women is the perfect way to shake off the snow and ring in the New Year.

    Some of you may know Ann Lambert’s work from the Montreal theatre scene. You same people will know she does not shy away from difficult subjects, and in Women you will not be disappointed.

    As the lights go up, the audience immediately realizes that this performance will center on the talents of two short women, Laura Mitchell and Debra Kirshenbaum. Veterans of the stage in Montreal and elsewhere, Mitchell and Kirshenbaum immediately settle into their respective roles. Both are long-time friends on vacation in some unnamed tropical paradise. As all good friends, they are polar opposites. Kirshenbaum is a nominal free spirit, tied down to no one and nothing, who pushes uptight Mitchell to let loose and forget her stormy family life. The Spartan set – two chairs, beach paraphernalia, and (later) a ladder – offer these remarkable women no support and become largely irrelevant. Indeed, such is the
    talent of Kirshenbaum and Mitchell that after, say, about two minutes, you can practically see their toes wriggling in the warm sand. Kirshenbaum and Mitchell transport you into their lives - Mitchell could be your mother, Kirshenbaum your eccentric and flirty neighbour. Those of you who have seen them in
    other roles will remember that they are true studies in character acting.

    True to Lambert form, sun-kissed paradise turns into a humid, dark, sticky hell. Like all transformative events, the second half of the piece renders the first innocent, even quaint. Once again, Lambert challenges her audience: How would you survive this traumatic event? What would you do to save your friend? What would you give to save your friend? What would you give to save yourself? Lambert’s gift is
    that you may not like the answers she provides.

    Opening night on January 4, 2013 was exciting, charged, and a little rough, understandable given that the ambitious Wildside schedule boldly accommodates so many productions, for such short runs, over so few days. Of course, this is the appeal of the festival, which delivers unvarnished and challenging works.
    Some hiccups even add to the play. Over a few scenes, Mitchell’s blouse threatened to slide off, which only sharpened the audience’s appreciation of her vulnerability.

    Two Short Women plays January 8 (Tuesday), 11 (Friday), and the matinee on the 13 (Sunday). For a night out, or as part of your four-show superpass, make sure you do not miss this one.


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