Modern society’s interpretation of history is never certain. Despite our best attempts to learn from the past, our current resources limit us from experiencing the proper lesson. We try anyway, for as the old saying goes, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
A new play on stage at The Players’ Ring in Portsmouth is spinning that popular belief into a reverse concept: If we were to repeat the past, would we learn from it?
In “The Other Two Men,” presented by Oz Productions, this question is explored through the interactions between Saskatoon II (Emery Lawrence) and Nebraska II (Bailey Weakley), clones of two of the four long-dead founding fathers of a future society built upon a colonized Milky Way galaxy. Saskatoon and Nebraska are under observation by their creators, who hope to discover historical intricacies by replicating the lives of the original two founders through their clones. But the controlled nature of their existence causes the clones to question and debate the ethics and value of such an endeavor.
Written by Lisa Shapter and directed by Tomer Oz, the two-man show is great entertainment for fans of the sci-fi genre, particularly those seeking a production with non-traditional plotlines. “The Other Two Men” is attractively unorthodox, a good choice for anyone looking for a different kind of theater experience.
The scenery and detail of the set is refreshingly sparse, allowing the audience to devote all of its attention to the two actors onstage. The spotlight remains on Lawrence and Weakley, who cope with the pressure through a dedicated maintenance of character. Their dialogue is steady and their facial expressions reflect the strong emotions their characters are feeling. The two stars develop and maintain a clear chemistry.
Despite the compatibility of the actors, Nebraska and Saskatoon have conflicting reactions to their circumstances. While Nebraska continually expresses worry and doubt about their situation, Saskatoon is more resigned to his fate and optimistic about the outcome of the experiment. Although this dynamic creates an interesting tension between the two, Saskatoon gets somewhat short-changed as a character, lacking Nebraska’s depth and vulnerability. This results in a slight imbalance in the plot.
The lighting for the production is well done, but some of the sound effects are vague, particularly the source and meaning of the sounds the characters hear in their heads. Furthermore, the narration that accompanies different scenes is often difficult to understand and too brief for the audience to adequately consider.
But the artfulness of the writer and director, the performance of the actors, and the skill of the crew are all on full display in this production. The cast and crew’s ingenuity has created a compelling and thought-provoking show out of scant resources.
Audiences will not easily brush off the effects of “The Other Two Men” once they leave the theater — they will be made to think, and they will be made to feel.