Fringe Fest: Two has us seeing double

Culture Theatre

The Martlet recently spoke with Two’s Kat Taddei and Colette Habel ahead of the show’s premiere. You can read it here. This review does contain some spoilers. 

As I previously wrote in my preview for Two, a play created by a myriad of students from UVic and elsewhere, I wasn’t sure how parallel universes would work into the show. The answer: parallel universes are the show. 

Two plays for four more nights at Victoria Fringe Festival. Photo by Catador Productions.
Two plays for four more nights at Victoria Fringe Festival. Photo by Catador Productions.

Opening night drew an almost-full house. It’s clear that the advertising budget claimed on their Indiegogo page has not gone to waste. Haunting piano and cello music seemed to hover in the air, and upon entry of the Metro Studio, the surreal world began, with cast members Kate Boutilier and Sam Lynch sprawled on symmetrical mattresses onstage.

Two, written by Kat Taddei and directed by Colette Habel, splits the stage in half as it tells two simultaneous versions of a woman named Anna’s life, played by Boutilier and Lynch. After a beautiful choreographed movement piece, Anna’s day begins in chaos. Boutilier’s Anna on stage right is woken by a phone call, while Lynch’s stage left mirror image can’t find the phone and doesn’t answer. The ensuing events change the course of Anna’s life.

Habel handles the large cast well. The choreography and symmetry are purposeful and artistic. Around the edges of Anna’s life hover masked men (Jack Hayes, Ardy Ramezani, Levi Schneider, and Nicholas Yee), who take the form of male archetypes: customers at the restaurant Anna works, an old man, a homeless man, and a young guy who wolf-whistles as she passes.

Following the play becomes hard work as Anna heads to a bar. With the entire cast onstage, plus constant music and overlapping dialogue, it sometimes seems too busy. Stage-right Anna meets with old friend Mike (Michael Bell), and the two share an intense and gripping scene for which the actors and playwright should be commended. Two’s strength is in the chemistry between cast members; Bell is a standout, and his character is the most well-defined.

In the second universe, Anna meets and goes home with Jess (Brett Hay), a guy from the bar. Their friendly intimacy and emotional vulnerability is a stark contrast to the violence the other Anna faces.

A theme of sexuality is apparent, though any intended conclusions seem veiled. In the opening dance, the way the two women are at the mercy of the masked men made my skin crawl. Stage-right Anna delivers a monologue that asks why young girls are taught self-defense, calling to mind the normalization of rape culture, but the central question and intention don’t become clear through Two’s unconventional storytelling formula.

Conceptually, though, it works. Sean Brossard’s set and lighting design compliment the choreography, while costumes by Emma Woodhouse are simple and effective. The dialogue is never contrived and continuously engaging. The logic of the plot clicks when Mike shows up in the second reality, and Two’s appeal comes from the ambiguity of its surrealism. Any lack of clarity is overshadowed by the success of the staging and production, and the pure enjoyability of the script.

Get in line early — this show will fill up fast. Two’s charming weirdness feels at home at Fringe, and what better a place for emerging artists to debut their work?

Two plays at the Metro Studio Theatre (Fringe Venue 3) on Sept. 2, 3, 5, and 6. Tickets are $11 and $9 for students and seniors. More info is available here.