Friday, 20 July 2018

REVIEW: Two for the Seesaw at the Trafalgar Studios 2

William Gibson's 1958 play is a bittersweet romantic two hander which was staged on Broadway with Henry Fonda and Ann Bancroft and was made into a film in 1962 starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine . It is staged in the intimate Trafalgar Studio 2 by the Buckland Theatre company and the male character Jerry is played by its founder, Charles Dorfman. Jerry is a lawyer from Nebraska in the process of divorce and struggling in New York to rebuild his career and his relationships away from his wife and father in laws influence . When he meets the fragile dancer Gittel from the Bronx, delightful played by Elsie Bennett, at a party they begin a quirky on off relationship which is constantly under the shadow of his past in Nebraska.

Designer Max Dorey has created a good looking 1950's detailed set with Jerry's pale blue small flat stage right and Gittel's pink bedsit stage left. Each has a table at the edge of the stage with a phone. By adding a corridor along the back of the stage , the design pushes the acting spaces very close to the audience on three sides which sometime means we are looking at the actors backs . In addition as too much of the dialogue is between the characters on stage via the phones in their own apartments or with unseen characters off stage the audience is left glancing left and right at each character while they are on the phone .This becomes a distraction from the otherwise good performances . As the story unfolds the prop changes between each scene seem to get more complicated and in the half light we enjoy the carefully choreographed reset by the two stage crew! 

Director Gary Conde creates the best scenes when the two actors are involved together in one or the others flat and we see their relationship develop and the writing explores the difficulties of new relationships when past relationships have not been resolved. We see Jerry's uncertain desperation for female company, we see Gittel's struggles with illness and Jerry's caring response and we emotionally engage with the decisions they each face .There is laughter and tears and the outcome of their relationship is uncertain until the final scene. Dorfman does not have the gravitas of a Fonda or Mitchum and his character is less layered than Gittel but he makes a convincing Jerry , full of angst , torment and unresolved issues. Bennett is compelling as Gittel with a full range of emotions called for at times to be in love, in pain, self-doubting and
understanding of his predicament. 

The story has heart but the plot is perhaps too slight with just two characters to sustain two hours of drama and the setting too tight for a full appreciation of the fine performances. It's enjoyable but a little dated in its approach and in the modern day the seesaw may have rebalanced in favour of the girl. 

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★

Seats: Row C | Price of the ticket: £25
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