Monday, October 28, 2013

Double Trouble

"We're calling it a comic neurotic thriller."
Adam Paolozza - Artistic Director, TheatreRUN Productions

Coming in at two hours, there's not much wrong with the current production of The Double that couldn't be remedied by a prudent edit that reduces the running time by almost half. Too much explication leading up to the fast paced psychological unraveling of the second act make the opening hour a rather plodding journey through the narrative of the Dostoevsky novella. The original story explores the psychological conflict of a single man usurped in his personal and professional life by the aggressive nature of his other, rather split personality. Issues surrounding industrialization, bureaucracy, and the frequently two-sided nature of capitalist enterprise surface throughout. These social concerns might have been better served by a much shorter opening act utilizing imagery and trimmed down narrative that brings the audience to a quick and concise awareness of the central conflict, rather than the arduous, detailed way in which the text has been adapted into two very distinct and unequal parts.

A very skilled cast utilizes physical theatre to great comic effect, yet falter as the opening sixty minutes relies too much on a simplistic coupling of back story and physical mimicry. The second half however picks up the pace, retreats from the Dostoevsky plot line in creative and entertaining ways, and creates the kind of intrigue and theatrical play that the first hour lacks. An especially effective scene has the protagonist in a kind of lounge singer pose as he parodies his plight in an engaging, energetic, and  anachronistic manner that allows spectators to consider analogies to contemporary social concerns within the realm of everyday working lives.

Adam Paolozza, Viktor Lukawski, and Arif Mirabdolbaghi create expressive, physically agile characters who are able to move rapidly through a series of challenging gestures and near acrobatic feats. The parts of the The Double that work extremely well take these physical gestures and incorporate them into a story about one man's alienation from himself and the world around him in a lighthearted, comically angst ridden manner. Unfortunately the opening scenes put too much importance upon the mechanical details of a story that could be told quickly and efficiently in ten minutes or less, and then the action could frolic across the stage from that moment on.

The opening moments with an onstage musician grab the viewer and hold the promise of a fully engaged piece of theatre, but take a sharp turn away from the essential flights of fancy that make the second act of The Double a joy to watch. Melodrama and physical comedy appear to be great theatrical strengths for TheatreRUN productions, and the current Tarragon backspace possesses all of this but falls short in a an opening act that is just too long.


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