When it premiered in 1958, William Gibson’s Two for the Seesaw was hailed as an honest examination of the relationship between two damaged souls.
It remains that — as well as a contrast to the more usual whitewashed-happy-nuclear-family style of show more usual in the 50s. But in the current climate, there are issues — even when the drama is presented as a period piece. For example, hitting a woman or commenting that an ulcer is a “man’s disease” is likely to raise the hackles of many audience members in the 21st century.
The Classic Theatre Festival production of Two for the Seesaw makes some accommodation to current preferences by condensing the original three acts into two. This works to some extent, although it jolts the rhythm of the rocky romance in this two-hander (plus telephone) and makes the first act seem unduly long.
From the awkward beginning of the ill-matched couple’s relationship through a series of highs and lows — hence the title — it seems unlikely that the Jerry Ryan and Gittel Mosca will become a permanent twosome. After all, what do an almost-divorced Nebraska lawyer and an unsuccessful dancer with low self-esteem have in common except their loneliness and their desire to be needed?
Yet Gibson builds hope for the relationship throughout the script, while reminding us that it is impossible to commit to the future with one foot and part of one’s heart firmly attached to the past. And the familiarity of the pull between past and future is why the show has survived for more than half a century on stage and on the silver screen.
As directed by Laurel Smith, Scott Clarkson as Jerry and Kate Gordon as Gittel have a convincing tug-of-war through their emotional turmoil. Clarkson’s carefully nuanced portrayal generally gives him the upper hand but Gordon’s delivery of a brash New Yorker provides the appropriate balance.
Effective lighting and a serviceable set from David Magladry complete the picture of a seesaw romance built on a need to be needed.
Two for the Seesaw continues at the Mason Theatre, 13 Victoria Street, Perth to August 5.
For further information on the Classic Theatre Festival, visit www.classictheatre.ca
Director: Laurel Smith
Set and lighting: David Magladry
Costumes: Mylène Ménard
Jerry Ryan…………………………………………Scott Clarkson
Gittel Mosca……………………………………….Kate Gordon