The play starts out, promisingly, in the Long Island town of Mineola, sometime in the Eisenhower administration. First we meet Myrna, the good twin. She works at a diner, is all pinks and soft blues, defends her virginity, and is devoted to her man, a fast-rising ad executive who captivates her because of his ability to "not stand out in any way." She dreams of a perfect life in which she's a doting wife and wonderful mother. She's a deliciously revolting Eisenhower Republican stereotype.
Meanwhile, the bad twin, Myra, seems straight out of Jack Kerouac's "The Subterraneans." She's a lip-smacking, wisecracking fountain of cool, spitting out '50s beat slang. She's feverishly promiscuous and swears she'll never be chained down by a man or the Man.
(One of the wickedest motifs in this play is that the good twin is blessed with immense breasts, while the bad twin is young-boy flat. Insert your interpretation here.)
It's a great premise for a play, and in this first scene, Vogel seems to parody both strands of the idealism that began in the 1950s. But this nice idea is a dead end. In the second scene, the good twin is a Nixon Republican with mental problems apparently stemming from the birth of her son. Her sister embarks on a Patty Hearst-like bank robbery—but she's still adored by her hippie-in-training nephew. In the Bush years, the good twin is a right-wing radio talk-show host; she's now adored by her nephew, who despises his bad-twin mother, who is a fierce champion of the right to choose, alternative lifestyles and multiculturalism.
There's much humor, but Vogel's craft and style disappear in the final two scenes, as do the play's charm and edge. By trying to say too much, the play winds up expressing only big ideas that say almost nothing new.
But great kudos to director John Ferzaca's staging and his designers, particularly costume designer Erik Lawrence and set designer David Scaglione. And the actress playing the twins is stunning, managing to capture two entirely different characters, each of whom harbors the exact same strain of self-destruction that is one of the few interesting themes of this play. The program lists Jessica and Marie Hutchinson, but it's obviously the same person playing both. Whoever it was, she rocks.
The Mineola Twins at Orange Coast College's Drama Lab Studio, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-5880. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $8-$9.