By Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. Directed by Wojtek Kozlinski. A DualMinds production. At the Waterfront Theatre on Tuesday, August 7. Continues until August 19
You don't get to see a lot of innocence these days, but Tuesdays & Sundays has that quality in such abundance it's as if the two actors were bearing armloads of wildflowers. It's a lovely gift, but it only takes them so far. This script, written and performed by transplanted Vancouverites Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn, tells the story of William and Mary, two giddy teenage lovers from Margate, Prince Edward Island, circa 1887.
The theatricality in this production is elemental. Catherine Mudryk's set consists of a rough-hewn wooden bench and a number of steppingstones placed on piles of folded burlap. Above that, about 20 lanterns are suspended, like stars in a night sky. It's such a skillful evocation of rural life you can almost smell the soil and taste the sea air.
The play's language is funny, humble, and poetic. "Where are we?" William and Mary ask as they seem to awake at the beginning. "Heaven? Hell? Earth? Margate." The characters overlap narrating their story with acting it out. When Mary loudly says a line that frightens him, William adds, "she whispers". "I whisper?" Mary asks, before repeating her statement in hushed tones. Arnold and Hahn's performances are so guilelessly exuberant that William and Mary repeatedly reminded me of sweet young dogs.
The evening is at its best in its first act, when we meet the pair and watch them fall in love. At 18, William is slightly more cynical "Don't you know the respectable never tell the truth?" while Mary is simpler: "You're not making sense." Both are openhearted. Mudryk's gentle lighting enhances the romance, especially when it suspends the teenagers in a warm cocoon as they tumble into sex.
The storytelling remains poetic after that, but it also speeds up too much and the play fails to provide enough context to justify its tragically dark turn. William commits a crime that seems to be motivated by fear and shame, but his father's power and William's religiosity are only hinted at, so the crime feels poetic but unreal, a lyrical lie. In the final moments of Tuesdays & Sundays, innocence devolves into naiveté. Still, it's a deftly written, beautifully acted piece.