Two Headed Rep presents contemporary work alongside adaptations of classic work in order to draw out universal themes. Currently, they are presenting an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie with new play Reno & Moll by Emma Horwitz. Both plays revolve on the theme of work and relationships, asking the questions: What does one give up in order to pursue one’s passions? What passions does one give up for work?
In Reno & Moll, two actors deal with the pressure that comes with being on a children’s TV Show. Harper (Eva Victor) who plays the loveable dog Reno, feels pressure to be a role model after her costar gets fired from the show. Daisy (Zoë Geltman), who gets hired to be the new Moll, copes with getting killed off the crime show she was in. As the two get to know each other, they also deal with Benj (Alton Alburo), a neurotic producer. Their conflict escalates into a physical fight, which seems wholly unnecessary, though it plays to the absurdity of the situation.
The actors work very well together. Eva Victor establishes the moods of the show – angst and confusion – while Zoë Geltman adds to the awkwardness, and Alton Arturo brings a severe amount of tension to make the action of the play feel like a ticking time bomb – which keeps us hooked.
Some moments escalate too quickly, while other take too long because the language of the play isn’t very clear. Emma Horwitz has a knack for making comedic moments, and director Lily Riopelle brings them out very well, however, in between these solid moments the dialogue clumsily gropes its way to the next moment.
The adaptation of Miss Julie is set in Corsicana, Texas. Miss Julie (Sarah Jes Austell) is the daughter of a wealthy fast food chain giant, and Gene (Fernando Gonzalez) – like his father before him – works as a manager in the flagship location. Their complicated relationship unfolds during a Halloween party, and after some kinky sex, they plan to run away together. Gene is in relationship with Krissy (Rachel Sachnoff), or so Krissy thinks. Krissy is really a doormat that both Gene and Julie take advantage of. Unlike Reno & Moll, the adaptation also approaches the barriers that wealth can create (seemingly or actually) between two people.
The solid chemistry between Fernando Gonzalez and Sarah Jes Austell carries Miss Julie. Everytime Rachel Sachnoff steps onto stage she disrupts the flow between Gonzalez and Austell – which serves the show incredibly well. She wields this power, while still being a mousy doormat. The actors sometimes fall out of their thick Texas accents, but that isn’t any less jarring than moments in which one line doesn’t seem to follow the previous one. Perhaps these bumpy moments are the result of collaborating playwrights, or perhaps I am missing subtext. The moments in which the characters’ lines feel disjointed are very few, but they stand out.
Will Arbery, Brittany K. Allen, and Amanda Keating worked together by each taking charge of a character. Largely the adaptation is a solid piece of work. These writers changed the environment and the circumstances of the play to reflect the way society has changed since the late 1800s, and also to reflect the ways it hasn’t changed. Director Molly Clifford draws out the visceral moments that are simultaneously tender and cold-hearted.
Set designer Cate McCrea creates a breakroom that serves both plays well – with different set dressing of course. The sound design by John Salutz serves Miss Julie better than Reno & Moll. As small as the theatre space is, it just doesn’t feel loud enough sometimes. Nicole Slaven has designed several interesting costumes–standing out are Moll’s outfit, and Julie’s dress made of trash.
Though they offer different perspectives, Reno & Moll and Miss Julie highlight the universality of how jobs and social status can affect relationships.
Miss Julie/Reno & Moll, Two Headed Rep, The Workshop Theater’s Jewel Box Theater, 312 West 36th St, 4th Floor. Closes November 18th.