KPBS AIRDATE: OCTOBER 13, 2000
This election season of political polarity would seem to be an excellent time for Paula Vogel’s “Mineola Twins.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has penned a feminine fable for our times, tracing 50 years of female angst under three Republican presidents, embodied in two identical womb-mates.
Myra and Myrna look exactly alike, except for their mammary endowments. One is boy-chested; the other is buxom. In the 50’s lingo of the Eisenhower years, one’s a ‘good girl’ the other is ‘bad.’ In high school, the flat-chested nonconformist is restless and promiscuous, liberal and liberated. The busty arch-conservative wants only to be Homemaker of the Year, with a nice house in Great Neck, a definite step up from Mineola, and the requisite 2.5 kids.
Their story is the tale of American women — the stereotypes imposed on them and the choices they made, with unsettling personal and political repercussions. As she has done before, Vogel makes bold-print serious points embellished with loopy humor. But this play, with its scattershot, episodic structure, its annoying, telepathic dream sequences and its black-and-white dualities, is both less humorous and less deep, dark and disturbing than her “Baltimore Waltz” and “How I Learned to Drive.”
Director Patricia Elmore Costa, who had done some very edgy work before she turned her attention exclusively to children’s theater, deserves considerable praise for bringing “The Mineola Twins” to San Diego just over a year after their off-Broadway debut. But her production is less than satisfying, which only serves to underscore the weaknesses of the play. The conceit, though not all productions conform, is to have each of three actresses do a dichotomous duet. But here, despite the colorfully cartoonish caricatures Vogel has drawn, the distinctions are barely discernible.
Jill Drexler is a talented actor who’s taken on a mammoth task, playing both Myra and Myrna, as Swoozie Kurtz did in New York. But in this sib-set, not only aren’t the much-emphasized bra-cups significantly different; neither are the twins. Similarly, though Margot Rodriguez does a young boy quite credibly, she makes minimal distinction between the two sisters’ sons, each mismatched to his mother and drawn to his antithetical aunt. Cheryl Cameron fares better playing Myrna’s fiancé and later, Myra’s lesbian lover.
The cheesy sets, wigs and costumes don’t help, and the sluggish set changes only highlight the choppy structure of the piece. When all is said and done, the production comes off more like sketch comedy than bonafide satire. Most of the irony is obscured. And we’re left with a campy sendup of two suburban stereotypes, rather than a jagged deconstruction of the myths that are mother’s milk to all American women.
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.