Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Mineola Twins, convergence-continuum

(Lucy Bredeson-Smith in a come-hither pose as teenage Myrna.)

There’s probably a good reason that our DNA ladder, the core of our identity, takes the form of a spiral instead of, say, a railroad track. Human identity continually folds into itself in many ways (ie, we keep seeing ourselves coming around the next corner), and that is no doubt even truer for identical twins.

However, the DNA-sharing females in The Mineola Twins, now being produced by convergence-continuum, are not the type of gals you’ll find wearing matching “Former Womb-Mates” t-shirts at the next Twinsburg convention. Myra and Myrna are so close biologically they can hear each other’s thoughts, but they occupy the extreme opposite ends of the social, sexual and political continuums.

In this intensely theatrical creation, playwright Paula Vogel tracks the twins from their early days sharing a bedroom (marked with a dividing line) through their teen years and into advanced middle age. Flat-chested Myra’s path leads from high school slut to ‘60s radical mom to lesbian activist, while the pneumatically-endowed Myrna progresses from virginal prick tease to married mom who had shock treatments (that voice in her head) to female Rush Limbaugh-like talk radio host.

That’s a lot of territory to cover, but Vogel and director Clyde Simon surf those decades of upheaval and change with ease, even taking time for several dream sequences in which the sisters indulge in their secret fantasies of sororicide. In some regards, Twins is sort of the theatrical version of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, minus the rat for dinner episode. And some of it is flat-out hilarious.

Naïve, poodle-skirted waitress Myrna is clearly screwed down a couple turns too tight, and that tension implodes years later, sending her off to the loony bin. From then on, she suffers from fugue states accompanied by Frankenstein-ish short-circuiting sound effects. Small wonder, then, that in her later years Myrna writes a tome titled “Profiles in Chastity” and goes postal against gay rights and abortion clinics.

Meanwhile, Myra is bedding the football team and, a few years down the road, trying to avoid the FBI while bonding with Myrna’s 14-year-old son Kenny, who doesn’t understand his wing-nut mom. Of course, Vogel further complicates the situation when Myra’s teen son rebels against her lefty ways and finds a conservative compatriot in aunt Myrna.

Sound confusing? It isn’t, and the talented convergence-continuum cast handles all this with smooth assurance. Most of the on-stage credit for the constant thread of laughter goes to Lucy Bredeson-Smith, who brings a bit of that Baby Jane/Davis-Crawford comical creepiness to her portrayals of both twins. Diving in and out of her boob harness backstage, Bredeson-Smith finds more variations on crazy than are listed in DSM-IV.

She is ably supported by Geoffrey Hoffman as Myrna’s blue-balled boyfriend Jim, Bret T. Holden as both sons, and Pandora Robertson as Myra’s partner Sarah, complete with a dyke wig to die for.

There are some glitches in the production. The script has its soft spots, including too many predictable period references. And the timing goes slack in the second act when Myra and Myrna have to appear on stage in quick succession. During that time, Sarah is left literally holding the bag (it’s actually a ticking package) on stage while Bredeson-Smith gets her chest repeatedly reconfigured.

But The Mineola Twins is right in con-con’s wheelhouse, and they once again deliver an evening of chuckles along with some random takes on what makes us who we are.

The Mineola Twins
Through May 2, produced by
convergence-continuum at The Liminis,
2438 Scranton Road, 216-687-0074

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