TUESDAYS AND SUNDAYS
Tuesdays & Sundays is a ballad, a story of love gone cruelly wrong, performed with heartbreaking simplicity and crisp theatrical immediacy by co-authors Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. If ever you needed proof of the adage “less is more,” this is it.
Since its Edmonton premiere in 2000, the show has toured across Canada and played fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Prague, and twice in New York, garnering spectacular reviews and fistfuls of awards. Remarkably, Arnold and Hahn have resisted the temptation to expand the play beyond its single fifty-minute act. It’s over before you know it, leaving you feeling stunned.
Catherine Mudryk’s design is simplicity itself. A dozen small lanterns punctuate the half-darkness. A wooden bench and a path of stones represent the world of rural Margate, PEI, where 16-year-old Mary and 19-year-old William fall in love in 1887.
These kids are the epitome of rural innocence, Mary in her long skirt and buttoned-up cotton blouse. Lanky William’s suspenders hold up pants just a little too short. They meet on a Tuesday night at a New Year’s Eve dance and he giddily walks her home. Their sweetness is very funny, their excitement infectious. When he comes again, “a gentleman caller on a Sunday evening,” they smile so wide you’d think their faces would break.
But happiness, like innocence and youth, can’t last. Sex, social conditioning, biology, accident, family, misunderstandings, cowardice, the cruel inequities of gender—all these conspire against the lovers in a rapid-fire sequence of other Tuesdays and Sundays whose details I won’t give away.
Arnold and Hahn fully inhabit their characters, and their acting seems effortless. They manage a wonderful economy of movement, too, so the slightest gesture—one’s hand held out towards the other—becomes rich with significance.
The script unfolds like a duet. The two characters mostly narrate their story, talking to the audience more than to each other, alternating lines in a quick, rhythmic tempo, every tenth line or so spoken together in harmony like a song they don’t even know they’re singing.
Director Wojtek Kozlinski paces the show perfectly and Mudryk’s lighting changes are so subtle you barely notice them. One I did notice comes at the climax of the play when the characters are suddenly revealed in a cold white light. Mary stands behind William, her arms around his chest, a tableau suggesting almost the exact opposite of the action they’re describing. It’s a beautiful, terrible, complicated moment, a fitting finale to a very fine little play.