Think “The Gin Game” sans playing cards and nursing home and without the requirement of aging characters and ‘Bingo’ one discovers the delightful and charming “2 Across” currently enjoying an open-ended Off-Broadway run at Manhattan’s St. Luke’s Theatre. In Jerry Mayer’s new play Janet (Andrea McArdle) and Josh (Kip Gilman) meet on an early morning BART train from the San Francisco International Airport to Bay Point the final stop on the line.
Josh has been unemployed for eighteen months, having left the family button business after twenty-five years. He is on his way home from one of his temp jobs working at the Airport helping run the International Air Terminal on Christian Holidays. Josh is Jewish and it is Holy Saturday. Janet, a psychotherapist, has just dropped off her son Brian at the Airport. Despite her protestations, Brian has decided to drop out of school and enlisted in the Marines.
Each “rider” has deep secrets and overwhelming needs. During the BART ride, these secrets are slowly disclosed, some unearthed layer by layer despite denial and self-recrimination. Ms. McArdle’s Janet is acerbic, witty, confident and - beneath that shell – sadly vulnerable and lonely. Mr. Gilman’s Josh is outwardly needy and equally vulnerable; however, beneath Josh’s naïve crust is a man of confidence waiting for the opportunity to connect on a deep and significant level. Both actors develop their complex and well-rounded characters with a refined sense of authenticity and honesty.
It is a joy to watch these actors provide clues for one another’s solving – the extended puzzle metaphor is well developed and deliciously subtle in its execution. Both characters claim to be married and sport wedding rings. Both behave like teenagers on their first date. Why? Mr. Mayer delineates his characters with exquisite care and their conflicts drive a remarkably engaging plot structure that the audience easily connects to on a variety of important levels.
Like Mr. Mayer’s work for television, “2 Across” requires impeccable timing, an innate sense of comedy, and the ability to be completely generous on stage (on set). Under Evelyn Rudie’s sensitive direction, Kip Gilman and Andrea McArdle meet these requirements and deliver Mr. Mayer’s script with layered and empathetic performances.
Scott Heineman’s scenic design provides a serviceable space for the actors to work their magic and John Iacovelli’s lighting is perfect in its straightforward design. “2 Across” is a dramatic puzzle worth solving. The solution provides a heart-warming ninety minutes that challenges making judgements on preconceptions and shabby prejudices.
Do not plan to leave the theatre immediately after the curtain call. Kip Gilman and Andrea McArdle have a wonderful surprise to share with their audience before everyone leaves renewed and restored.
“2 Across” is written by Jerry Mayer and directed by Evelyn Rudie and stars Kip Gilman and Andrea McArdle. The creative team includes scenic direction by Scott Heineman and lighting design by Josh Iacovelli. Production photos by Carol Rosegg. For performance schedule at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th Street) and to purchase tickets, please visit http://stlukestheatre.com/. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.