Playwright Paula Vogel's "The Mineola Twins" is a sociopolitical comedy that requires a deft touch. In Cockroach Theatre's current production, it's getting murdered with a sledgehammer.
The playhouse describes the show as "a comedy in six scenes, four dreams and seven wigs. Myrna and Myra, almost identical twins, battle each other through the Eisenhower, Nixon and Regan-Bush eras over virginity, Vietnam and Family Values."
Until the final poignant moments, Vogel (probably best known for "How I Learned to Drive") is having fun with cliches. The script evolved during the 1990s, and even by then, we'd heard most of these jokes before. What reinvents the zingers are the particulars of the characters who say them. They desperately cling to their limited points of view because the jargons are the only sense they can make of their lives.
Joe Hynes directs as if the dialogue alone carries the play. The jokes are so overstated that you can't help but groan when you hear them.
No performer comes out unscathed. As the twins, Shanti Leone occasionally physically and vocally suggests a young Madeline Kahn.
That's unfortunate because it is in those moments that you come to understand how this production might work. It needs an actress not straining for laughs but, instead, projecting genuine lunacy. Once Leone settles on a vocal pattern, there's no rescuing her.
No point mentioning the other thespians. It's not their fault.
The frequent blackouts grind the show to a halt. A screen that somberly announces the years that have gone by gives the script a documentary feel that goes against the grain of the sketchlike ambiance.
The impression I got is that the director just doesn't understand what Vogel was trying to do.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.