Tuesdays and Sundays
nytheatre.com review by Michael Bettencourt
August 17, 2006
Tuesdays & Sundays premiered in 2000, and its six-year performance history (including a FringeNYC appearance in 2003) has given it a polished look and feel that packs a great deal of emotional intensity into its 50-minute running time.
Cleanly acted by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn (who also co-wrote the piece) and sensitively directed by Wojtek Kozlinsky, Tuesdays & Sundays tells a story of love turned into abuse that, though set in the late 19th century in rural Canada, carries a contemporary resonance (witness the recent subway poster campaign against domestic violence in New York City).
William (18) and Mary (16) meet on New Year's Eve in 1886 at a local celebration and, feeling an immediate attraction to one another, find themselves staying up to four o'clock in the morning, walking and talking and going through the touching, awkward dance called new love. Arnold and Hahn portray the progression of Mary and William's relationship with just the right touch of urgent reticence, as befits young people growing up in a socially and morally restrictive rural community. The presentation/acting style that the writers have chosen both underscores and heightens the growing emotional involvement of the two: a mix of dialogue, direct address to the audience, narration, and spoken-out-loud internal thoughts and feelings.
Though things start out well for the two, they soon take a dark turn after an impulsive sexual encounter leads to Mary's pregnancy and William's rejection of her. But Arnold and Hahn keep this tale from being just another tale of an abuser and his victim. Mary does not simply accept her fate. With guidance from other women, she doses herself with blue cohosh, pennyroyal, black cohosh, and other herbal abortofacients. When these fail, she resorts to inducing an abortion with the equivalent of the wire hanger or knitting needle, but that fails as well. As her pregnancy progresses, her family and community ostracize her, but she suffers this with a quiet dignity that demonstrates her underlying strength of character.
William, on the other hand, though older, turns out to be weak-willed and selfish. He is eager to go to college and escape from a family and a village he finds stifling, and while he keeps saying that the two of them can "work things out," in his heart of hearts he knows (though he won't admit it) that if he marries Mary, he will be stuck there forever. By the end of the play, what began in love ends in tragedy.
Special note should be made of Catherine Mudryk's set and lighting designs, which perfectly complement the spare telling of this spare story. A raised wooden platform holds two piles of burlap bags. Leading away from the platform in a graceful half-circle are six paving stones lain on piers of overlapping burlap bags. These stones stand in for the road between William's and Mary's houses, the walkways up to those houses, a path through the forest, the river. Lighting is never obtrusive, and thirteen carriage lamps hang asymmetrically from the lighting grid, looking like indifferent stars or the dim lights of distant houses.
Tuesdays & Sundays is not perfect. It begins with a narrative red herring that could be eliminated without damaging the work, the pre-show tableau of Arnold and Hahn felt unnecessary, and the music selected felt out of synch with the play's pitch and timbre.
But Tuesdays & Sundays is 50 minutes well-spent, a fresh economical unaffected work of theatre.