The Mineola Twins, from How I Learned to Drive author Paula Vogel, is a subversive, satirical look at women and society's stereotypes.
By ROBERT HICKS
Published June 3, 2004
Katrina Stevenson as the good sister, Myrna, and Roz Potenza as her boyfriend, Jim, in the Jobsite Theater production of The Mineola Twins.
Jobsite Theater artistic director David Jenkins first witnessed Paula Vogel's flair for broad social satire and comedic melodrama during an early 1997 workshop production of her play The Mineola Twins.
"I was really taken aback by the camp aesthetic of the show. I've always been a big fan of subversive comedy, and this play is completely in that vein," he said as he prepared for the Jobsite Theater production, opening today at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg Playhouse.
"We couldn't have timed things any better. It's funny because Vogel wrote this play during the first Bush administration. Things are not so different now in the second Bush era. Her perspective on the senior Bush administration and what we're in right now is nearly identical." The play offers a social history of American women from 1950 to 1989, through the lens of a love-hate relationship between identical twins, Myrna and Myra, whose political views and values are diametrically opposed. In the Jobsite production, the dual role is played by Katrina Stevenson.
Myrna is a model of 1950s bourgeois values. She works at a Mineola, N.Y., luncheonette, protects her virginity at all costs and dreams of marrying Mr. Right, a 22-year-old virgin named Jim. She grows into an embittered Great Neck homemaker who longs to win the Homemakers of America Senior Award. Her distaste for multiculturalism, birth control and homosexuality make her the perfect host for a right-wing talk show and the author of Profiles in Chastity.
Myra, whose sister calls her the Whore of Babylon, takes on the first string of the local football team, as well as the captains of the wrestling, golf and track teams. She gets suspended from Mineola High and hangs out with pants-wearing young women in Greenwich Village. During the Vietnam years, she serves time for a bank robbery, flees to Canada and later settles down with her lover, Sarah, and heads a Long Island branch of Planned Parenthood.
Roz Potenza has the task of playing Jim, who loses his virginity to Myra instead of Myrna, and Sarah.
Chris Holcom plays Kenny and Ben, the sons of Myrna and Myra. Each man gravitates toward his aunt's politics, to humorous effect.
Kevin Spooner and Kari Keller play the nonspeaking roles of FBI agents and are the dancers in the dream sequence while Myrna undergoes electroshock therapy in Mineola.
"I think it's a great actor piece," Jenkins said. "We are an artist company, and it's a great piece to show off not only a single actress who plays the twins but it's great across the entire cast. Then it also hits down on social points. We like to present politically relevant theater, and we think this play fits that criteria."
Vogel presents Myrna and Myra as archetypes who long to connect but are constrained by sexual stereotypes, social expectations and their hatred of one another. Politically and emotionally charged as it is, the play is also very funny, with elements of burlesque and variety shows, jokes, dream sequences, sight gags and cross-dressing.
"I think Vogel is taking a dig at the '50s archetype of what it was to be a man," Jenkins said. "And she's poking fun at a society that expects women to behave and act in a certain way."
The Mineola Twins, today through June 20, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. 8 p.m. Thur.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun. $15.50-$19.50. 813 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; www.tbpac.org