Two's A Crowd
A reviewBy Raschid Osman
October 12, 2003
IAN Valz's Two's A Crowd returned to the local stage last weekend in a rollicking production directed and featuring Godfrey Naughton, and with a performance both hilarious and sensitive by Michael Ignatius.
As a matter of fact, Ignatius, as the gay Henry, all but stole the show, quite a feat when one considers that Godfrey Naughton was there as Albert Alberts. It seems as if the teenaged Ignatius was painstakingly directed, though Naughton said he did not need much of this, and what little guidance he did need was absorbed quite readily.
In Valz's delightful comedy, Henry is the intrusive neighbour, always coming over to borrow sugar and cheese from the well-off Alberts. Henry is befriended by Agnes Albert (Jennifer Thomas). On the other hand, he is abused by Mr. Alberts, and vilified and almost strangled, only to have the tables turned when he concocts an outlandish plan to bring the estranged Albert and Agnes back together.
Henry's performance is almost balletic. He moves like a dancer, constantly shifting his weight from one foot to the other, his hands fashioning delicate, filigreed, evanescent patterns in the air, all this meshing impeccably with the delivery of his lines. And while Henry's reading of the role is chockfull of the mannerisms synonymous with his kind, he adjusts readily at serious moments. In one of these, he voices a plaintive cry about his condition and how it might have been different if he had met a girl as loving as Agnes. But no crying over spilt milk for Henry. He jumps over a fence with an elaborate arabesque, tells off Albert as only one of his ilk can, and breaks out in uproarious laughter with all the overdone body language one expects of him.
The late Andre Sobryan played Henry in the premiere staging of Valz's play in the eighties, and comparing both Henrys, director Naughton feels that Ignatius managed a more calibrated role, one more dynamic than the all-out, brash interpretation by Sobryan.
As the head of the Alberts ménage, Naughton plods around like a sore bear, burdened and somewhat emasculated by the fact that the home in which he lives is a gift from the father-in-law he hates, and offered to him so that Agnes could live in the manner to which she is accustomed. He reacts to this affront to his manhood by corralling his wife, robbing her of the freedom he himself is striving to find. And so she cleans and cooks and washes, not being permitted to have either a job or a child, not even a helper, for Albert doesn't want to see a stranger in the house when he comes from work.
Naughton manages a familiar resonance in his role, a character with which many can identify, perhaps a bit larger than life, full of the swagger and bullying and biting sarcasm with which the insecure husband seeks to assert himself.
His request for some cold lime drink one Sunday is rejected by Agnes and this is the signal for a full blown battle of the sexes, with Henry serving as the comic foil, encouraging Agnes to rebel and then coming up with a plot to show the couple how ridiculous their carrying on was.
The plot backfires and it is here that Agnes comes into her own, standing up to Albert like a battleship assailing a walled port, screaming at him with surprising vehemence. But the coup de grace is delivered when she quiets down, Albert is fittingly repentant and all ends well when he asks her if she would like some lime drink.
The bliss of the making up is shattered when the unsinkable Henry waltzes in and asks to borrow their fridge, as his own had gone bad.
Albert and Agnes, in concert, answer with a resounding "No", and the curtain comes down on a tremendous entertainment,
Link this with Naughton's recent production of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' and it could be that a renaissance in local theatre is looming just over the horizon.
But there is one phenomenon to which we must attend, and that is the over-interactive audience that seems more suited to a football match than a theatre event.
But that's another story.