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A Tale of Two Cities – Synetic Theater

Jordan Wright
May 22, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Alex Mills as Jerry and Vato Tsikurishvili as Dorian. Photo by Koko Lanham.

Alex Mills as Jerry and Vato Tsikurishvili as Dorian. Photo by Koko Lanham.

An eclectic jumble of flea market collectibles informs Luciana Stecconi’s clever set for Jerry’s one-room flat, in what reads as New York’s East Village.  Vintage Ronald Coleman movie posters adorn the walls and point to the inspiration for playwright Everett Quinton’s steroidal version of A Tale of Two Cities.  Jerry (Alex Mills), stage name Betty May, is an aspiring drag queen.  But don’t let that throw you off, we’re just scratching the surface.  He’s also a literate, thoughtful kid whose artistic proclivities fall a tad outside the realm of everyday culture.

As he prepares to premiere his long-awaited drag debut he discovers a baby abandoned on his doorstep, “What in the gay hell?” he shrieks.  Jerry is ill prepared to deal with a child, and especially not the oddly precocious Baby Dorian (Vato Tsikurishvili) who has adult sensibilities and puerile needs.

Somehow the two communicate, Jerry speaks to him as a peer, while Dorian makes hilariously expressive baby responses also readable to the audience.  This crazy buy-in is the magical moment when both Jerry (and the audience) travel down the rabbit hole together in an absurdist fantasy anchored by a tender story of hope and determination.  After all, Dorian, who has the head of a grownup with the body of a toddler, is just the beginning of your compact with the playwright.

Alex Mills as Jerry. Photo by Koko Lanham.

Alex Mills as Jerry. Photo by Koko Lanham.

To keep his date at the theatre, Jerry strikes a deal with Dorian to nap while he goes out.  But Dorian, oddly advanced far beyond his binky-sucking years, demands a bedtime story.  After some negotiation – – The Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood are nixed by Dorian as being too scary – – Jerry settles on “A Tale of Two Cities”, the telling of which requires him to assume each character’s role from Dickens’s classic story.  Be sure to brush up on the story ahead of time.  The Playbill affords no descriptions of the book’s characters, and it can get somewhat complicated if you’re trying to keep track of who’s who.

Through countless back-and-forth costume changes (wigs, hats and costumes worthy of a diva’s wardrobe), dozens of props are imaginatively employed – – an old school bell serves to sound the Bastille’s call to arms.

Alex Mills as his character Jerry's Drag persona, Betty-May. Photo by Koko Lanham

Alex Mills as his character Jerry’s Drag persona, Betty-May. Photo by Koko Lanham

Mills, who in a herculean effort to keep Dorian (and us!) amused, never leaves the set, keeping the dialogue and quick changes at warp speed.  N. B. Madame LaFarge didn’t knit as fast as this!

In this ultra demanding topsy-turvy role, Mills gives us the performance of a lifetime.  His various characters are sharply executed and his brisk segues, physicality, and change of accents are astounding.  The words ‘bravery’ and ‘fabulous’ come to mind.  Do not leave your seat until the denouément.  I promise it will blow your mind.  Of course, that’s exactly why we love Synetic!

Highly recommended.

Through June 21st at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information call 866 811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.

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