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Love It or Hate It? Dog & Pony Stages Another Promenade-Style Show

When Dog & Pony Theatre Co. premiered As Told by the Vivian Girls in 2008, I had little experience with promenade staging. The action moved around the performance area and the audience moved with it. But that’s not all…

Production still from Dog & Pony Theatre Co.'s The Twins Would Like to Say
Ashleigh LaThrop (left) and Paige Collins, as Jennifer and June Gibbons, connect eerily in The Twins Would Like to Say

 

We gave it a standing ovation.

THEATRE When Dog & Pony Theatre Co. premiered As Told by the Vivian Girls in 2008, I had little experience with promenade staging. The action moved around the performance area and the audience moved with it. But that’s not all: Some scenes played out in different rooms, so your experience became a kind of choose-your-own adventure. If it was a gimmick, then I bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Dog & Pony uses promenade staging again in its current production, The Twins Would Like to Say, a tale based on the real-life identical twins Jennifer and June Gibbons. Early in life, the twins made a vow to talk only with each other, which stymied their socialization but apparently worked wonders for their creative writing. The beginning scenes in this hour-long play occur simultaneously. At least one critic found this set-up frustrating, but I found it easy to traipse back and forth and get the gist of what was happening, as I do when flipping through TV shows or apps on a smartphone. (The chopped-up experience certainly suits Dog & Pony’s young demographic.) The frenzied movement also matched the destructive tendencies of the twins, who—without giving too much away—like to play with fire. The final scene split up the audience so that each side witnessed a different ending, a crafty ploy that forces you to A) pay twice to see it again or B) chat up the folks on the other side. (I saw the fantasy ending, while the audience members on the other side of a curtain got a dose of reality.) A gimmick? Worked for me.
 

GO: Thru Apr 25. $12-$20. Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1624 N Halsted. steppenwolf.org

WHAT CRITICS THOUGHT OF THE TWINS WOULD LIKE TO SAY
  • The examiner.com review by Catey Sullivan, 3/1/2010:
    The Twins Would Like to Say is theater as a tumble down the rabbit hole and into an ever-shifting funhouse maze where reality is warped and the line separating fantasy from reality is fluid. [THREE STARS OUT OF FIVE]”
  • Newcity’s review by Monica Westin, 3/1/2010:
    “In terms of dramatic range and technical theater, the show is flawless; the actors show impressive flexibility working amongst stylized choreography, sharp naturalism and song-and-dance disco numbers. . . RECOMMENDED.”
  • The Chicago Tribune review by Chris Jones, 3/2/2010:
    “The piece needs a more satisfying ending. And any show about identical twins runs the danger, of course, of catering to the rather tiresome, fetishistic and repetitive obsession that non-twins seem to have with those who are part of a pair. [THREE STARS OUT OF FOUR]" 

 

Photographs: Peter Coombs 

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