by Lynn on April 14, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Assembly Theatre, 1479 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont. until April 24, 2022

Written by Michael Ross Albert

Directed by Janelle Cooper

Set by Pascal Labillois

Lighting by Chin Palipane

Cast: Luis Fernandes

Cass Van Wyck

We all have experienced vacations from Hell. In Two Minutes to Midnight playwright Michael Ross Albert has added a possible touch of Armageddon to the mix.

Jack and Tracy, a bickering but loving couple, are on vacation at an all-inclusive resort and it’s not working out too well. It’s been raining almost since they got there. Jack is trying to establish himself as an ‘internet influencer’ by reviewing the place and hoping for followers and endorsements. That’s not happening either. He’s indebted to Tracy in more ways than just living together in her condo.

Jack is an optimist and hopes to take things further with Tracy. But then there is a frantic alert on everyone’s cell phone that says that a nuclear device is heading towards the resort and pandemonium results. The staff and guests seem to have departed in every available vehicle and only Jack and Tracy are left to deal with the impending catastrophe and each other as best as they can. Information is spotty. Is this for real? A test? A joke?

When people think they are going to die they do strange and interesting things, such as take stock, or not, or profess their love, or not. And so Jack and Tracy must face their demons and each other before the end and they try and make things count; like honesty, and the truth, and expressing their feelings. Tracy just wants Jack to grow up and face the reality that perhaps he’s not as big an influencer as he would like and that he might live in a dream world. Jack would like Tracy to know that he loves her and will pay her back for everything he owes her.

Playwright Michael Ross Albert has proven he has a way with fast-paced, whip smart dialogue and story that goes like the wind in his previous play Tough Jews. In Two Minutes to Midnight he has created a script and story that again goes like the wind, because that wind might be bringing a nuclear device. It might look like Jack and Tracy are an uneven couple—he’s all enthusiasm and faith that his ‘influencing will pay off’. And Tracy just wishes he would grow up and face reality. As Jack, Luis Fernandes is buoyant, boisterous, excitable and listens so hard that his performance is full of surprising nuance and detail. Fernandes shows us a man who is always thinking of an angle to make work. Jack just never seems defeated as played by Fernandes. Cass Van Wyck as Tracy is his equal match. She is mature, rational, excitable, but with reason, and pragmatic. Both of them together are fearless and play off of each other’s energy. And their sense of timing in realizing Michael Ross Albert’s humour, is flawless.

They are ably directed by Janelle Cooper who keeps the pace moving, the energy high but not so that the audience gets overwhelmed. The audience is put in the tropical world immediately upon entering when we are offered a lei to wear if we want it. The drinks offered at the bar are served with paper umbrellas floating in them.

 We get a nice sense of the tropical setting in Pascal Labillois’ set. There are flagstones painted on the floor and into the audience to suggest a smart patio. There is a lovely ocean backdrop. There is a round table and chairs with wine glasses on it and potted palm leaves around the set. Jack’s wild shirt, indicates he is on a  “TROPICAL VACATION” in blue neon. Tracy’s bathing suit shows she’s ready to rumble or relax.

Relationships at the best of times are hard. Michael Ross Albert just raised the stakes by adding what might or might not be a nuclear end. How Jack and Tracy negotiate it all is a joy to watch. The relief and bubbling joy that Luis Fernandes and Cass Van Wyck showed at the bow was well earned, not just because it was the end of the show they did beautifully, but because these two co-artistic directors of the tiny but mighty The Assembly Theatre have worked tirelessly to keep the place afloat, while it was closed for two years by the pandemic. COVID postponed the original opening and shortened the run, but they prevailed. They have the guts of bandits. They deserve our support. The show is a treat.  

Produced by The Assembly Theatre in association with One Four One Collective and the Spadina Avenue Gang.

Runs until: April 24, 2022.

Running time: about 70 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Gord Doctorow April 14, 2022 at 11:28 am

My wife and I attended the second performance of Tow Minutes to Midnight. Although we were aware of the overall plot beforehand, we watched in total attention as the fast-paced dialogue ensued. The language and gestures were superbly matched by both performers. So much so that, at times, I felt as if I were watching a real situation unfolding. The accusatory language felt completely familiar and natural. The ending combined anxious expectation with hopefulness, both with respect to the delivery of the bomb and the renewed relationship of the protagonists. To be sure the vivid interactions were unsettling and provocative, but also invoking the audiences’ need to contemplate life’s vicissitudes.