Jan. 24, 2013 - Issue #901: Children can’t choose
Is there any worse woe of public transportation than a prolonged encounter with a total weirdo? It's something experienced by every rider of buses and trains, most of whom wouldn't consider such instances as fertile ground for meeting that special someone—and yet such chance meetings are a staple of the romantic comedy genre.
Enter Janet (Kate Ryan) and Josh (James Hamilton), the unlikely couple in Atlas Theatre's mounting of Jerry Mayer's 2 Across. The pair meet on a rapid transit train departing from the San Francisco airport in the wee hours of the morning, and their story is the classic setup of two complete opposites forced to engage in extended one-on-one conversation. He's disarmingly charming, Jewish and chronically between jobs, while she's an uptight perfectionist as well as a Catholic and psychologist. What they do have in common are the wedding bands on their respective fingers, an almost irresistible interest in the other despite their obvious differences and a predilection towards deception that borders on being manic.
This production features a very minimalist set and sound design, which combined with the church basement venue, lends a definite Fringe show vibe. However, the script's clever writing negates the need for any elaborate surroundings—it's really all about the discourse between these two people, which is cunningly established through the use of a crossword puzzle as an effective literary device and character foil.
Such witty banter demands performers who are up to the challenge, and it is easy to see how this script could fall apart in unskilled hands—this production, however, sees both Ryan and Hamilton successfully navigate Mayer's sharp dialogue while maintaining charismatic stage presences, in spite of (or possibly even because of) an occasional slip of the tongue.
The open and honest portrayal of two very real-life characters is refreshing, and when the audience shifts uncomfortably, it's because the personality clashes and trotting out of emotional baggage feels all too familiar. Human beings are contradictory and perplexing; human beings chasing love are downright infuriating. 2 Across manages to transform this turmoil into an engaging, lighthearted comedy that just might have you rethinking your approach to the eccentric stranger on your daily commute.
Until Sun, Jan 27 (8 pm)
Directed by Julien Arnold
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
(Lower Hall), $13 – $15
Reserve tickets by calling 780.437.2891
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