Mere silence on stage can sometimes be as arresting as an explosion. That’s what happens at the Gladstone Theatre during the most memorable moments of its new production of Lancashire playwright Jim Cartwright’s pub drama, Two. We have a woman sitting quietly at a table. There’s a tentative smile on her face — she’s relaxing into a moment of serenity. In the background there is the noise of other customers, but for the moment she’s occupying her own, private secure world. But only for a moment. Reality intrudes, the smile vanishes. and those brief glimmerings of happiness yield to anguish bordering on despair. There’s also fear.
Michelle LeBlanc is the actress here, her face and body language signalling an unsettling gamut of emotions. We start realizing that this is someone in deep trouble, and when her boyfriend shows up with the drinks, we know why. We have front-row seats for a glimpse into an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend, played with swaggering cruelty by Richard Gelinas, is as much an emotional tyrant as he is a physical menace — toying with her anxieties and fears, threatening her with the jealousies and possessiveness which hide his own insecurities. You know the scene will have a bad ending — and it does.
Director John P. Kelly has staged this sequence with the care and nuance this treacherous material deserves. He and his performers must do their best to disguise the fact that the two characters are stereotypes and that their sad little drama is playing out predictably. Gelinas, truly discomforting here, manages to bring out the awfulness of the boyfriend, getting beyond the elements of caricature in Cartwright’s script. And it is LeBlanc’s brilliantly modulated characterization that conveys the young woman’s ultimate anguish of spirit. (Continue reading » )