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April 15, 2020

Three’s a Crowd: Two-Character Shows


Let’s not over-complicate things, because the two of us have a great rapport. Keep things simple with these dynamic plays and musicals featuring just two actors!

2 Across by Jerry Meyer
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 1f, 1m)
Two strangers, a man and a woman, board a San Francisco BART train at 4:30 a.m. They’re alone in the car, each is married, both are doing the New York Times crossword. She’s an organized, sensible psychologist. He’s a free-spirited, unemployed ad exec. She is a crossword pro, he always quits. When he tosses his puzzle away, she snaps, “Crosswords are a metaphor for life, those who finish, succeed, those who don’t, fail.” Now he vows to finish. Why?  He’s a competitor and she happens to be lovely. Two opposites in an enclosed space, attacking each other’s values but also being swayed and intrigued by them. They each have serious life problems that the other helps solve. Their trip is filled with unpredictable, but believable, surprises, even a passionate kissing embrace or two. As the train ride ends, it’s obvious each of them has been changed for the better. (US/UK)

Airswimming by Charlotte Jones
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2f)
Set in 1920’s England, Airswimming is based on the true story of two women (Miss Kitson and Miss Baker), who have been incarcerated in a hospital for the “criminally insane” for having borne illegitimate children. Forgotten by their families and not released until the 1970’s, Dora and Persephone adopt alter-egos, Dorph and Porph, to enact their fantasies and survive the silence of incarceration. By turns very funny and moving, Airswimming reminds us of the forgotten women of these generations in both Britain and Ireland. (US/UK)

Barbara’s Blue Kitchen by Lori Fischer
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 1f, 1m)
Set in a small town just outside of Nashville, this slice-of-life comedic play with music is a genuine look into the hearts of everyday people. As the proprietor, Barbara Jean, tries to figure out “When is it courageous and when is it just plain crazy to hang on to love,” her customers come in and take a load off by sharing their funny, heartbreaking humanity. There’s Miss Morris a nurse who’s planning a Pyramid prayer-time, Miss Tessie, a senior citizen who’s gonna make you laugh and steal your heart, a Tupperware brandishing, plate-dropping waitress named Jeanette, Lombardo—a country-singing hairdresser, Tommy Lee, who is recovering from a dog-bite and Melissa a mixed-up Mother of three. Throughout it all, the wacky DJ from WATR, the local radio station, breaks in with local news, commercials about baldness and whole slew of quirky, unforgettable toe-tapping songs. (US)

The Big Bang by Boyd Graham and Jed Feuer
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 2m)
Performed by its wacky creators Off-Broadway, this frenetic entertainment is long on shtick and historical hilarity. It is staged as a backers’ audition for an 83.5-million-dollar twelve-hour stage history of the world from creation to the present. Eighteen sidesplitting numbers portraying Adam and Eve, Attila the Hun, the building of the pyramids, Julius Caesar and Columbus, among others, give potential investors a taste of the impending extravaganza. In the process, the opulent Park Avenue apartment “borrowed” for the occasion is trashed as the two snatch its furnishings to create makeshift costumes while singing and clowning their way through inventive recreations of the past, stopping occasionally for a little supplicating show biz patter. (US)

The Big Voice: God or Merman? by Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 2m)
This high-energy, razzle-dazzle show chronicles the lives of a Baptist from Arkansas and a Catholic from Brooklyn who find eternal salvation in the temple of musical theatre. The show traces the couple’s meeting aboard a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, Steve’s struggle with AIDS, the production of their hit off-Broadway musical The Last Session, their separation and their reconciliation. It’s a comedy about a gay marriage between two men, created by the couple themselves. (US)

Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 1f, 1m)
Born at the same time on the same day in the same hospital, Pig and Runt have been inseparable ever since. They speak in their own language, play by their own rules, and create a world for themselves in which boundaries blur between truth and illusion. Until, on their seventeenth birthday, they discover something more. As night falls, and the disco and drink take hold, they spiral violently out of control. (US)

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You by Caryl Churchill
(Short Play, Dramatic Comedy / 2m)
Caryl Churchill’s elliptical look at American and British politics, in which two men on a couch fall in and out of love. The 45-minute piece explores themes of anxiety, anger and the sexuality of politics in what the New York Times called a “canny exploration of the theatrical language.” (US/UK)

Double Trouble (A Musical Tour de Farce) by Bob Walton and Jim Walton
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 2m)
From the creators of the hysterical revue Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical, Double Trouble (A Musical Tour de Farce) is a spoof of 1940s Hollywood in which two performers play 10 different larger-than-life characters. Written and originally performed by Bob and Jim Walton, this tale of singing, dancing and song-writing brothers is sure to get you laughing and your toes tapping. (US/UK)

eLove, The Internet Dating Musical by Wayland Pickard, Sherry Netherland, and Deborah Johnson
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 1f, 1m)
This funny and charming two-person “” is a contemporary love story based around the modern world of internet dating. A man and a woman search for that “special someone” in cyberspace and find that romance is only a mouse click away, but discover more than they ever anticipated. Two lonely singles at home on their laptop computers have signed up with an in
ternet dating site called “” We hear their innermost thoughts about love and relationships as they correspond in a cyber chat room searching for their perfect soulmate. When one of them shares a unique personal moment that’s too coincidental, they discover they’ve been “perfectly matched” … with their former lovers! The newly reunited couple rediscover their love as they start to clear the air of misunderstandings through the safe distance of cyberspace, finding true love where they least expected it…where they last left it! (US)

Educating Rita by Willy Russell
(Full-Length Play, Comedy /  f, 1m)
Frank is a tutor of English in his fifties whose disillusioned outlook on life drives him to drink and bury himself in his books. Enter Rita, a forthright 26 year-old hairdresser who is eager to learn. After weeks of cajoling, Rita slowly wins over the very hesitant Frank with her innate insight and refusal to accept no for an answer. Their relationship as teacher and student blossoms, ultimately giving Frank a new sense of self and Rita the knowledge she so craves. The play became a hit film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. (US/UK)

Girlfriend by Todd Almond and Matthew Sweet
(Full-Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 2m)
In Nebraska in the ’90s, Will, a bit of a social outcast, and Mike, the popular football player, figure out that there is more to life than what high school has taught them. Days after graduation, they explore their relationship and begin to ask themselves where their lives begin. Based on the album by Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend is a pop/rock musical for everyone who’s lived in a small town and feels for their first love. (US/UK)

Gutenberg! The Musical! by Scott Brown and Anthony King
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 2m)
In this two-man musical spoof, a pair of aspiring playwrights perform a backers’ audition for their new project – a big, splashy musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. With an unending supply of enthusiasm, Bud and Doug sing all the songs and play all the parts in their crass historical epic, with the hope that one of the producers in attendance will give them a Broadway contract – fulfilling their ill-advised dreams. (US/UK)

The Gulf by Audrey Cefaly
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 2f)
The divide between Kendra and Betty mimics the very world that devours them: a vast and polarizing abyss. On a quiet summer evening, somewhere down in the Alabama Delta, Kendra and Betty troll the flats looking for redfish. After Betty begins diagnosing Kendra’s dead-end life with career picks from What Color is Your Parachute, their routine fishing excursion takes a violent turn. (US/UK)

Happy Days by Samuel Beckett
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 1m)
Winnie is embedded waist-deep in a low mound under the blazing sunlight and is awoken by the sound of a bell. She begins her day, talking incessantly, with her daily prayer, brushing her teeth, drinking her tonic, and putting on her hat. Somewhere there is Willie, and Winnie wishes he would come out where she could see him. Samuel Beckett’s classic absurdism comes to life in this drama about “happy days.” (US/UK)

H2O by Jane Martin
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 1m)
After arriving in the City of Angels, an aimless young man catapults to movie stardom and into Hollywood’s sleazy celebrity culture. Banking on his fame (and name), he is soon selected to appear on Broadway in Hamlet. Given full casting approval, he embarks to New York City to seek out his Ophelia and encounters his muse and his match —a young evangelical Christian woman set on getting the role… and saving his life. (US/UK)

Jack + Jill by Sarah Hammond and Emily Goldman
(Short Musical, Dramatic Comedy / 1f, 1m)
Jack and Jill are identical, inseparable, made-for-each-other best friends, but then Jack falls in love with Jill, which is a problem. A ten-minute musical about climbing hills, breaking eggs, and the perils of growing up. (US/UK)

Klook and Vinette by Che Walker, Anoushka Lucas, Omar Lyefook
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 1f, 1m)
Klook is a drifter who’s gotten too old to drift. Vinette is on the run but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Together they make a tentative stab at happiness, before the past they are evading begins to catch up with them. Tough, tender, funny and poignant, Klook and Vinette will grab you from the inside out. Soulful music and a lyrical text make this a mesmerizing theatre experience. (US/UK)

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill by Lanie Robertson
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 1f, 1m)
The time is 1959. The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. The audience is about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s last performances, given four months before her death. More than a dozen musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous reminiscences to project a riveting portrait of the lady and her music. (US)

The Last Sweet Days of Isaac by Gretchen Cryer, Nancy Ford
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 1f, 1m)
A sad and funny spoof of computerized claustrophobia in a world where one mechanical breakdown can end it all. In the first act, Isaac and Ingrid are trapped in an elevator. They talk, make a fumbling try at sex and depart. In the second act, Isaac is in jail with a television that sends and receives pictures. Alice is in the next cell. Though Isaac and Alice can only see each other through their television screens, they try to communicate. (US)

Leonard Bernstein’s New York by Leonard Bernstein, Betty
Comden, Adolph Green, Stephen Sondheim
(Musical Revue / 1f, 1m)
This charming two-hander explores Bernstein’s relationship with NYC, his famous New York friends (Sondheim, Comden & Green, Robbins and Copland), and the way that New York City informed Bernstein’s music, life and relationships. On a parallel pathway, the show presents a boy-meets-girl story depicting the developing relationship between the two performers: one a seasoned New Yorker and the other a wide-eyed newcomer. (US/UK)

Marie and Rosetta by George Brandt
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 2f)
Bringing fierce guitar playing and swing to gospel music, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a legend in her time and a huge influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, and Ray Charles. Marie and Rosetta chronicles her first rehearsal with a young protégée, Marie Knight, as they prepare to embark on a tour that would establish them as one of the great duos in musical history. (US/UK)

Matt & Ben by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 2f)
Matt & Ben
 depicts its Hollywood golden boys – before J-Lo, before Gwyneth, before Project Greenlight, before Oscar… before anyone actually gave a damn. When the screenplay for Good Will Hunting drops mysteriously from the heavens, the boys realize they’re being tested by a Higher Power. (US)

Murder for Two by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 2 any gender)
Officer Marcus Moscowicz is a small town policeman with dreams of making it to detective. One fateful night, shots ring out at the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney and the writer is killed…fatally. With the nearest detective an hour away, Marcus jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills—with the help of his silent partner, Lou. But whodunit? Did Dahlia Whitney, Arthur’s scene-stealing wife, give him a big finish? Is Barrette Lewis, the prima ballerina, the prime suspect? Did Dr. Griff, the overly-friendly psychiatrist, make a frenemy? Marcus has only a short amount of time to find the killer and make his name before the real detective arrives… and the ice cream melts! (US/UK)

The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 2m)
This definitive spoof of Gothic melodrama is a quick-change marathon in which two actors play all the roles, including a sympathetic werewolf, a vampire, and an Egyptian princess brought to life when her tomb is opened. Charles Ludlam’s rollicking satire skewers several theatrical, literary and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce, the penny dreadful, Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. (US/UK)

Nat Turner in Jerusalem by Nathan Alan Davis
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2m)
In August 1831, Nat Turner led a slave uprising that shook the conscience of the nation. Turner’s startling account of his prophecy and the insurrection was recorded and published by attorney Thomas R. Gray. Nathan Alan Davis writes a timely new play that imagines Turner’s final night in a jail cell in Jerusalem, Virginia, as he is revisited by Gray and they reckon with what has passed, and what the dawn will bring. Woven with vivid imagery and indelible lyricism, Nat Turner in Jerusalem examines the power of an individual’s resolute convictions and their seismic reverberations through time. (US/UK)

The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2f)
Zoe, a black student at a liberal arts college, is called into her white professor’s office to discuss her paper about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution. What begins as a polite clash in perspectives explodes into an urgent debate about race, history, and power. (US/UK)

A Number by Caryl Churchill
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 2m)
Human cloning is the subject of this beguiling hour-long psychological thriller that blends topical scientific speculation with a stunning portrait of the relationship between fathers and their sons. The Off-Broadway production starred Dallas Roberts. (US/UK)

Pete ‘n’ Keely by James Hindman, Patrick Brady, and Mark Waldrop
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 1f, 1m)
Staged as a live taping of a 1968 television special that reunites a divorced singing duo, this kitschy spoof had New York critics singing its praises. As Pete and Keely stroll down memory lane (in eye-popping costumes) reprising songs from their days of stardom, they take “unscripted” swipes at each other that dredge up hilarious moments from their turbulent past. (US/UK)

Plot Points in Our Sexual Development by Miranda Rose Hall
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 1m or f)
Theo and Cecily want to be honest about their sexual histories, but what happens when telling the truth jeopardizes everything? (US/UK)

Popcorn Falls by James Hindman
(Full-Length Play, Dramatic Comedy / 2m)
The sleepy town of Popcorn Falls is forced into bankruptcy when a neighboring town threatens to turn them into a sewage treatment plant. Their only hope – open a theater! Two actors play over twenty roles in a world of farce, love, and desperation, proving once and for all that art can save the world. (US)

Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 1f, 1m)
Set in San Diego, this gripping, time-bending story sheds light on
a little-known chapter in medical history during the onset of the AIDS crisis. While navigating through the complexities of the medical establishment, Roz and Ray tells a profound story of love, trust, and sacrifice that grapples with the messy process of healing the human heart. (US/UK)

They’re Playing Our Song by Neil SimonMarvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager
(Full-Length Musical, Comedy / 1f, 1m +Small Ensemble)
A funny, romantic musical about an established composer, not unlike Marvin Hamlisch, and his relationship with an aspiring young female lyricist, not unlike Carole Bayer Sager. Professionally, their relationship works beautifully — but ultimately leads to conflict on the home front. Of course, there’s a happy ending. (US/UK)

For even more two-person shows, visit Concord Theatricals in the US or UK.

Photo: Popcorn Falls by James Hindman (courtesy of James Hindman)