- The Mineola Twins
- Through November 18; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $15-$18. Art Square Theatre, cockroachtheatre.com.
Sometimes theater is grand emotions and catharsis. Other times it’s clockwork, a machine reliant on timing, quick exits and quick entrances. One gear out of place, and it doesn’t work. Unfortunately for Cockroach Theatre, a few gears are missing from its production of Paula Vogel’s The Mineola Twins, playing at Art Square Theatre through November 18.
Vogel’s script covers the life of twin girls (Myra and Myrna, played by Shanti Lleone) from Mineola, Long Island, from the 1950s to the ’80s. One actress plays both twins, and quick changes between the two are an integral part of the comedy. Yet director Joe Hynes hamstrings these changes with his staging, orienting the playing space in the Art Square Theatre so Lleone has to take the longest possible route to cross from one side of the stage to the other, and characters are hung out to dry in the long sides of the playing space. Rapid-fire character changes become impossible, the timing of the comedy goes away and the play fizzles.
There are other logistical problems. I have never called out a backstage crew—typically the unsung heroes of any production—in a review before. But they let the play down badly this time, fumbling Lleone’s quick changes and repeatedly botching lighting cues. These are not subtle problems. If they needed more rehearsal or additional crew, then it’s dependent on the director to ensure they get it. In that sense, then, their mistakes are still Hynes’.
The production does get some hard stuff right. Lleone creates distinct characters for each of the twins and acts her heart out the entire show. I wished she could have relaxed a moment, to trust in the machinery of the play as she breathed into specific moments and emotions … but I can understand why she wouldn’t. Other cast members (Tara Lynn as Myra and Myrna’s lovers and Aaron Barry as the twins’ sons) were alternately skittish or sketchy, intense yet not quite fully realized. The same is true for the entire production—just too many pieces missing.