When plans were being made for the 25th season of The Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage, those in charge wanted to do something special to commemorate its silver anniversary. The initial idea was to remount something from its past and pay tribute to some of the theatre’s strong history.
In 1992, 2ndStage did a production of Daniel MacIvor’s 2-2 Tango, with 2ndStage Artistic Director Keith Alan Baker directing, and it became one of the first big hits in the theatre’s history. The play quickly found itself on the shortlist of those being considered for the revival.
The theatre was also interested in bringing in an international play for the season and came across a charming little play out of New Zealand called Skin Tight by Gary Henderson, which also was being heavily considered.
“When we were making the final selections on the season, our literary committee came across several plays we were interested in, but these two seemed to go together really well and the decision was made to do them both and make one evening of it,” Baker says. “They are both about movement and we wanted to find a project that choreographer Nancy Bannon could work on and this seemed perfect.”
The result is Pas De Deux: Plays from New Zealand and Canada, which begins performances on April 24. Each play is an hour long and an intermission separates the two.
“They are very different but very similar in some ways,” Baker says. “Both are two-person plays. 2-2 Tango is two men and Skin Tight features a male and female couple. They are both about relationships.”
Coincidentally, both plays have a third character who appears at the conclusion of each play with no lines, but figures prominently into the story. Without giving anything away, one is a young boy, and another, an old man.
“We thought that was a perfect bookend,” Baker says. “It gives another connector to these two wonderful stories.”
In 2-2 Tango, which starts the evening off, a great deal of dancing is done, including the tango, hustle, fox trot and it is set to the rhythm of the dancers. It’s a heavily choreographed production with the dance playing a deep part of the underlying story.
Eric Ruffin directs this version and examines an interracial couple’s sweet and stylish exploration of the universal obstacle course of love—from pickup to hookup to boredom, breakup, or bliss.
The play follows James and Jim (Jon Odom as Jim and Alex Mills) who enter the stage dancing the tango and literally waltz their way through the ups and downs of a relationship, exploring all of the frightening possibilities of modern day romances.
“It’s a very fun choreographed thing, as the movement follows the relationship,” Baker says.
Opens April 24. Closes May 19, 2013
The Studio Theatre
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“It tells the story from the beginning of their relationship to the death of both characters,” Baker says. “This really hits at the end and finishes the evening off.”
Directed by Johanna Gruenhut, this play also relies on movement to convey the story and Bannon, a Princess Grace and Bessie Award-winning choreographer and dancer, brings a physically intense, erotically charged duet to the surface.
“Both are movement-based, visceral celebrations of life, love and sex; pairing them creates an evening that also honors the spirit of collaboration and risk that has always defined 2ndStage,” Baker says. “It seemed like a great evening could be made from this. 2-2 Tango is a comedy and Skin Tight is a drama, so there’s a little bit for everyone.”
The mission of 2ndStage is about developing new directors and Baker feels that the return of Gruenhut (who directed The Big Meal last season) and Ruffin from Howard University (who directed Passing Strange) add nicely to the theatre’s stable.