A play within a play is not the whole story

Thomas Volpe

Staff Writer

Perched on a piano bench amidst a cluttered set in Tarragon Theatre’s Workspace is Felice (Matt Pilipiak). As the audience filters in, he writes on a notepad, rips off the pages, and triumphantly slams them on top of the piano in front of him. He glances around the room all the while, sometimes pacing through the collected mess on the set before returning to the bench. At the start of the play, Felice’s sister, Clare (Nicole Wilson), enters the scene, exchanging verbal blows with him as they prepare to perform a play. This is the opening of a very dynamic, engaging and extremely multifaceted production. 

Tennessee Williams’ The Two-Character Play is a play within a play, but that is far too simple a description for such a complex and intertwining narrative. The lines are blurred between the real play and the one that Felice and his sister Clare are attempting to put on, which is also conveniently titled The Two-Character Play. At times, it can be difficult to follow, as the characters the siblings play leach out and consume their real selves at various points. Because of this, it isn’t always obvious as to who is speaking. In addition, the motives, secrets, and dialogue of both Felice and Clare, who are confounded by their characterized counterparts in the play (within a play), do not always make sense in the moment. 

It’s all part of the allure of Williams’ play, as the conventional bonds of storytelling are cast aside in favour of a much less restrictive style. At the play’s helm is first-time director Amy Keating, who makes the transition from acting to taking on this very challenging piece of theatre. With some creative set and costume designs from Lindsay Dagger Junkin, The Two-Character Play certainly manages to shine, despite its very unorthodox storytelling methods. 

Presented by Good Old Neon, The Two-Character Play runs at Tarragon Theatre until Feb. 28. For more information visit www.tarragontheatre.com