On the long weekend, we happened to see two productions involving the concept of doubles.
First up was the movie Another Earth, in which a mirror image of our planet suddenly appears in the sky. It seems to be identical, right down to the cities. Who are the inhabitants? Are they duplicates, too? A millionaire runs a lottery to allow the lucky winners to get a trip there to find out.
Though it all sounds very sci-fi, it’s really more of an indie drama. The focus is on the main character, Rhoda Williams, whose inebriated self gets so distracted by the appearance of Earth Two that she crashes into another car, killing a woman and child, and putting a man into a coma. She goes to prison; the man eventually emerges from the coma. All this happens in the first 15 minutes or so.
The rest focuses on Rhoda’s post-prison life, and her attempts to make amends. She visits the man to apologize, but loses her nerve and says she’s offering a cleaning service instead. She ends up his regular housekeeper, and they get to know each other—the secret remaining concealed. Meanwhile, she’s fascinated by the idea of Earth Two, and maybe starting over there.
It’s an uncomfortable film. It starts with a terrible tragedy and continues with a deception that you know has to blow up at some point. But it’s intriguing as well, and stays with you, pondering the big questions. All on a small budget.
If you can handle the premise, I’d recommend it.
Next was much lighter fare: William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, as directed by Des McAnuff at Stratford. That is the one with the twins, Viola and Sebastian, who get mistaken for one another after Viola disguises herself as a man.
The production is excellent. Just hilarious, set in a kind of 60s era with a soundtrack to match, with a strong cast, including Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby. I admit I was a bit daunted at its 3 hours, 7 minutes running time, but it goes by really quickly. Highlights include the Viola / Sir Andrew sword “fight” (mostly sword avoidance) and the choreographed spying on Malvolio as he reads the love letter he believes to be from Olivia. Ben Carlson as Feste also has a lovely singing voice.
Now, the whole thing does require one to ignore the scientific knowledge we now have that identical twins cannot, by definition, be of different genders. But the very distinctive outfits Sebastian / “Cesario” wear make that work OK (particularly from our cheap discounts seats).
And as many Shakespeare comedies, one has to accept character that are remarkably flexible in their romantic affections. Orsino is supposedly desperately in love with Olivia throughout the production, but can switch to Viola on a dime once it’s clear she’s not a dude. Olivia is not the least upset that she’s actually married to Sebastian despite thinking she married “Cesario”. Though particularly delightful is her reaction to seeing both Sebastian and Cesario for the first time: Double the fun!