‘Mineola Twins’ combines three decades of American history with film and theater

Nov. 18, 2013

Eleanor Skelton
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4/5 star rating

Twin sisters. Raised together in small-town America with radically different ideas.

This is the basis for “Mineola Twins” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, who spoke at UCCS earlier this month. The show, which opened last week, runs Nov. 22-24 in the Osborne Theater and is directed by Joye Cook-Levy, a theater instructor.

This production features an intriguing combination of both film and stage acting with interpretive dance, which gives the audience a clear sense of each passing decade.

The two sisters represent the polarization of political parties. The script uses mirrored actions and repeated lines to show that each side is more similar than they think.

Cook-Levy emphasizes these repetitions with red and green strobe lights and a computerized voice echoing the actor, highlighting the eerie nature of the play layered beneath the comic elements. Several props are reused, furthering the mirror effect.

Throughout the play, Myrna consistently aligns with ultra-conservative ideals while the liberal Myra discards cultural norms.

The first scene opens with video of two inseparable twin girls in an elementary school hallway in the early 50s, then cuts to a Cold War air raid and Myrna’s high school nightmare of an air raid, laced with pubescent sexual tensions.

Following dream sequences, indicated by fog machines, display more of Myrna’s buried desires. Myrna’s dream sequence in the mental hospital is interpreted by the dance of two scrub-clad nurses beside her, making Myrna’s speech more vivid.

The stereotypical costumes for each period colorfully illustrate Vogel’s theme of extremes.

The teenage Myrna, an aproned diner waitress in a blue-checkered dress, dreams of winning her high school’s homemaker award and marrying her boyfriend, Jim.

Myra, a cocktail waitress in black leather and hosiery at a brothel, mocks her sister, saying she has recipes for every dinner of her first year of marriage.

Real cigarettes and lighters are used in all smoking scenes, lending to the atmosphere’s authenticity.

Myrna and Myra are played by the same actor in separate scenes, and their only visible difference is their wardrobe style and their bra size, displayed by overt costume padding, which was distracting.

The 70s, introduced by footage of President Nixon telling the national television audience, “Your President is not a crook,” find Myrna a dissatisfied mother and housewife and Myra a flamboyant antiwar protestor.

By the 80s and the Reagan administration, Myra is raising a son with Sarah, her lesbian partner, while Myrna hosts a radio talk show and publishes a book called “Profiles in Chastity.”

Each son wishes his aunt were his mother. Kenny, age 14 in the 70s, wants to join Aunt Myra in the counterculture movement.

Benjamin, a high school freshman in the 80s, wears a “virgin by choice” pin on his collared shirt and asks Aunt Myrna to autograph his copy of her book.

Yet the twins are still sisters, despite their hatred of each other. As the lights dim, the play asks if reconciliation is possible between the two.