The Buckland Theatre Company has brought a real treat. Two for the Seesaw was originally written in 1958 by William Gibson and enjoyed a considerable succes during its initial time on Broadway – and now London audiences have a chance to see it in the smaller of the two rooms at the iconic Trafalgar Studios.
While the audience started taking their seats (rather oppressively close to the acting space), Max Dorey’s beautifully detailed set commanded attention. It wasn’t that Dorey went for some spectacular tricks but his commitment to realistic perfection was wholly convincing, beautifully portraying the two apartments within which the events unfolded.
Such a small distance between the actors and the viewers carries a huge influence on the piece, but both Charles Dorfman as Jerry and Elsie Bennet as Gittel manage the intimacy impressively. From their first appearance on stage they were both utterly in the skins of their characters – anything less then such conviction would be a disaster for a play that is so deeply focused on a human relationship and a personal struggle. Jerry is a lawyer, who in midst of a divorce process looks for a new life in New York, away from his family in law. Having met Gittel, he feels that he found the current that will take him towards that new life. He is not aware that Gittel, having a difficult past and great ambitions for the future will sense the uncertainty (essentially caused by his attachment to the soon to be divorced woman) that fills Jerry’s life. It is painful to watch both Jerry and Gittel not knowing what they want from each other, as well as from themselves, and the conflicts that keep arising which lead to their eventual separation.
Two for the Seesaw is branded as a comedy-drama but the further into the show, the more obviously the seesaw tipped towards the drama side and the humour soon acquired a tragic suggestion. The dense and fast paced dialogue in combination with abrupt changes of many sorts in the characters made it very difficult to judge them. Director Gary Condes said that he would love the audience to be able to “come out of the play and look at the true nature of who they are and what they really want from love and life” but watching this very believable and sincere struggle between the pair doesn’t offer solutions, it only proves that we have no choice but to keep learning.