MOUNT DESERT — Jim Cartwright’s “Two” kicks off the 43rd season of Acadia Repertory Theatre in Somesville on Monday, June 29.
The play focuses on a single night in a small English pub, the couple who own the place and their customers. “Two” is scripted for two actors, in this case the Rep’s artistic director, Cheryl Willis, and Adam Qualls, a newcomer to the theater. The director is Frank Bachman.
Willis and Qualls are the pub owners. They also portray six other characters, switching roles as the script requires.
Willis, who grew up in Northern England, of course had no trouble with the accent needed to successfully pull-off a play like “Two.” She knew she would need a partner who was just as convincing, and Qualls fit the part. Qualls is from the Minneapolis area, where Willis and the Rep’s producing director Andrew Mayer work when not in Maine. He and Willis began rehearsing informally this past winter.
“We did a lot of work on the accents,” Willis said.
Accents and geography aside, the interactions between characters are recognizable to most of us.
“The characters themselves are very familiar,” Willis said. “They’re humans with deep stories. He shows you a little bit of their soul, their being.”
With “Two,” Cartwright proves himself a keen observer and an accurate reporter, Willis said.
“It feels like Jim Cartwright took a quiet corner in a bar and just watched,” she explained.
Although Bachman has trod the boards at the Rep in the past, this is his first time directing there. The job, he said, has been made easier thanks to the professionalism of Willis and Qualls.
“I didn’t have to worry about my actors getting their homework done,” he said. “It’s amazing to see a play come to life even after the first read.”
One of the challenges came from the minimalist set, Bachman said. The script calls for virtually no props. Typical actions in a pub, such as pouring a glass of ale or serving food, are suggested through hand gestures, he said.
Because of the quick changes needed for different characters, the costumes, by Stephanie Peters, are minimal as well.
There are moments in the play that are amusing, Willis said. But the play isn’t a comedy; instead of breaking out in laughter, you’ll feel it “more in your heart,” she added.
“Two” runs from June 29 through July 12. Shows are at 8:15 p.m. except for a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 12. General admission is $25; $20 for seniors, students and military personnel; and $12 for children. For tickets or more information, call the box office at 244-7260 or online at acadiarep.com.