CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 10, 2000
'Mineola Twins' zooms through three decades of female
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University Theatres Second
Stage series will present Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel's "The Mineola
Twins," a campy satire that zooms through three decades of changing American
gender roles, opening at 8 p.m. Friday, March 24 in Theatre B of the University
of Iowa Theatre Building. Additional performances of the production, directed
by UI theatre arts faculty member Meredith Alexander, will be at 8 p.m. March
25, 26 and 31 and April 1, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 2.
Myra and Myrna are nearly identical twins -- appearing
alike in all respects except that one is "flat as a pancake" and the other
is "stacked" -- swimming together in the small pond of Mineola, N.Y., a Long
In the UI production both sisters are portrayed by
a single performer -- Bari Newport in her Master of Fine Arts thesis role
-- just as both were played by comedienne Swoozie Kurtz in the New York production.
As they live through the Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan
eras -- in a theatrical whirlwind represented in the subtitle "A Comedy in
Six Scenes, Four Dreams and Seven Wigs" -- the sisters' personal and political
directions are as opposite as their mammary endowments. Chesty Myrna is the
"good" girl who teases but never "puts out," and who uncritically conforms
to the conventional mold of '50s femininity. But Myra is a gum-snapping, promiscuous
rebel who continuously tests and challenges the boundaries of femininity and
The "good" twin, embittered by her life, men and her
sister, and traumatized by mental illness and electro-shock therapy, becomes
the hate-spewing host of a radical-right radio talk show. The "bad" sister
emerges from drugged-out hippiedom, revolutionary militancy and even imprisonment
to become the caring lesbian director of a family planning clinic.
Michael Feingold wrote in the Village Voice, "Plautus,
Shakespeare, Goldoni, Anouilh: Everyone loves the confusion and the occult
aura generated by identical twins. It took Paula Vogel, though, to see them
as a perfect image for America's peculiarly schizophrenic culture."
Vogel agrees that the twins symbolize two sides of
a divided nation, drawing a special sharpness in a particularly contentious
political season. "Democrat and Republican alike, despite pretensions of civility,
are not talking to each other," she says. "They are not listening; they are
reacting. We do not progress; we regress. So we may as well laugh about it."
A review of "The Mineola Twins" in the on-line journal
Curtain Up concluded, "Myra and Myrna are not simply takeoffs on easily identified
poster girls for female conservatism and rebellion.
Their twinship seems the playwright's way for pointing
to the way extremes -- no matter what end of the political spectrum -- create
the same loss of civilized control."
Vogel is the founding director of Brown University's
graduate playwriting workshop. Her plays include "And Baby Makes Seven," the
1992 Obie Award-winning "The Baltimore Waltz," "Desdemona," "Hot and Throbbing,"
"The Oldest Profession" and "How I Learned to Drive," which won the Pulitzer
"There were a lot a headlines, 'Lesbian wins Pulitzer,
blah, blah, blah,'" Vogel says. "I am the first person to say, hey, wait,
I'm not here to make everyone else feel homophobic; I'm homophobic. I was
brought up in this country. I was taught to hate gays. I was taught to hate
women. What we are taught to hate unifies us as a society. Our communal bond
is that we are all racist, not just whites. Blacks are racist. Latinos are
So it's not clear-cut to me: Here is the good guy and here is
the bad guy. You can't deport the enemy; the enemy is inside us."
This ambiguity is expressed in "The Mineola Twins,"
which could easily have been a shallow political melodrama. As the Village
Voice review observes, "Vogel can only sum up our screwy nation, in this perplexing
half century, through images of contradiction.
"'Good' Myrna, who accepts conventional values unquestioningly,
becomes a hideous person, but that doesn't mean all conventional values are
wrong, or that Myrna deserves the hell we see her suffer. 'Bad' Myra's wider
range of experience makes her a somewhat wiser and happier person, ultimately,
but her road to reason is littered with unrepaired wrongs and unresolved griefs
that are still dogging her in her last scene."
Director Alexander says, "After directing Vogel's
'Baltimore Waltz' at a professional theater a few years ago, I was attracted
to another example of her extraordinary talent in turning huge topics inside
out through a wicked sense of humor."
Other artistic contributors to "The Mineola Twins"
are set designer Lea Logsdon, costume designer Joyce McKinley, lighting designer
Ethan Bade and sound designer Sarah Claypool.
Tickets for "The Mineola Twins" will be $7 ($4 for
UI students and senior citizens) at the door. Tickets will go on sale one
hour before curtain time.
For information and calendar updates on UI arts, visit
on the World Wide Web.
(NOTE TO EDITORS: You can reach director Meredith
Alexander through the UI Department of Theatre Arts office, 319-335-2700.)