Starting off with an apology…I was slated to see Jim Cartwright’s TWO at the Gladstone Theatre this past Saturday night, but thought I’d be a clever little specimen and catch the absolute last possible bus to make it to the show on time. And then some even MORE clever fellow decided to have some sort of medical infarction/episode/whatever on said bus, necessitating the arrival of a half-dozen emergency personnel, a few police, and absolutely no chance of me making it to the show on time. Way to go, human frailty. You win AGAIN.
But I would not deterred, by cracky, so once Tuesday rolled around I tried again and this time successfully managed the task of catching a city bus, making it to the Gladstone in plenty of time. The show, as mentioned, was TWO from 100 Monkeys Productions and directed by the man himself, John P.Kelly. Set in a typical English pub over the course of a single evening, the show stars two of Ottawa’s greatest, Richard Gelinas and Michelle LeBlanc. They appear as both the husband and wife landlords who anchor the whole story, as well as a flurry of guests, from belligerent rageaholics to tired old ladies and gents enjoying their one spot of joy in a dreary day. Through it all we witness the simmering rage between the pair behind the pumps, and slowly but surely the reasons behind it all comes out. Nothing like a night at the pub too spill some secrets, after all.
Cartwright, who writes dialogue so eerily real at times I’d be tempted to believe this show was a verbatim piece, pens some marvellous characters and scenes in this show, which LeBlanc and Gelinas dig into with wild abandon. The first act is highlighted by a wonderful and hilarious courting dance between a would-be lothario and his meek but wily galpal. Act two hits some graver notes, starting out with a scene of an abusive husband that will set your teeth to grating in its quiet but all-too-honest brutality. Happily, it gets balanced later on with a beautifully serene moment of two goofy old retirees visiting the pub just to watch some telly.
TWO is hysterical at times, and painfully sad as well, and thanks to masterful work from Richard and Michelle it never rings false. Intimate in nature, I strongly advise the bolder among you to take advantage of John Kelly’s sneakily brilliant staging to grab a table on the stage itself, turning the audience into the pub patrons (and yes, you can bring your actual drinks onto the stage with you…how authentic is that??). I’ll leave it to more well-travelled folk than myself to say if all the myriad of local accents at play in the show were spot-on or not, but they sounded good to me. I could have watched another hour or two of these two actors delivering this caliber of work with a smashing director at the helm, and wouldn’t mind at all coming back for another night out. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)