A comedy in search of answers
Two strangers meet. Before they part, it’s apparent that neither of their lives will ever be the same.
This simple premise has propelled all sorts of stage productions, novels and movies over the years, from romantic encounters (Before Sunrise, Brief Encounter and Same Time, Next Year), to more nefarious ones (Strangers on a Train and Charade).
It will be seen again in 2 Across, the next Central Alberta Theatre play, written by Jerry Mayer. It has been described as a charming and entertaining romantic comedy by no less a luminary source than the Los Angles Times.
A man and woman, both 50-ish, board a San Francisco rapid transit train at 4:30 a.m. They’re alone in the same car, and both are doing the New York Times crossword.
It soon becomes apparent that she’s an organized if slightly uptight type, who firmly believes that crossword puzzles are a metaphor for life: “Those who finish, succeed. Those who don’t, fail.”
He’s a laid back, unemployed former ad exec, who initially tosses his puzzle away. But after hearing his co-passenger’s decided pronouncement about all that crosswords infer, he vows to finish it.
The play becomes an 80-minute tale about two troubled opposites who begin by bristling at each other’s attitudes, but end up changing each other’s views, said director Erna Soderberg.
“The play is full of witty repartee. It’s not mean-spirited or full of swear words and sex. It’s just a nice, warm, refreshing comedy,” she added.
Mayer is a former sitcom writer who has written for M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Facts of Life. And Soderberg loves his knack for writing realistic dialogue that rings true.
She also likes his play’s premise. Soderberg noted that meeting somebody who will, in all likelihood, never cross our paths again, often frees us to spill more personal details than we might even share with friends.
The biggest challenge to pulling off 2 Across, which runs from Oct. 11 to 21 at the Nickle Studio, upstairs at the Memorial Centre, will be keeping the audience’s attention with only two actors and one unchanging set.
But Soderberg believes she has found the right cast — CAT veterans Deb O’Brien and Derek Olinek.
The train’s interior is being designed by Stuart Reid with some authentic bus seats. To help with sight-lines in the 60-person cabaret theatre, the stage is also being raised slightly.
Soderberg noted that audience members can partake of the cash bar and concession snacks.
She hopes theatregoers will leave 2 Across with a renewed perspective.
“Just because you think you are one kind of personality doesn’t mean there isn’t room for change. It doesn’t hurt to break out a little, step out of your comfort zone, and learn something from somebody else.”