Tuesdays at Tesco’s

 

A mystifying monodrama with some head-scratching twists and turns.

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By Joel Benjamin

 

The most fascinating element of Emmanuel Darley’s one-man show, Tuesdays at Tesco’s is the dreamlike set by Robin Don which features a huge, tilted circular rim floating at an angle over the stage. A perimeter of coal like stones surrounds a piano, a fancy arm chair, an occasional table and a pink gown raised against a tree limb behind a piece of plexi-glass that reflects Simon Callow’s image as he wanders around the stage.   He is the transgendered Pauline, formerly Paul, son of Andy with whom he spends the eponymous days.

Even though Tuesdays is basically a long monologue, a musician, Conor Mitchell, shares the stage. He diddles at a piano, playing a few chords and an occasional giddy, little tango to which Mr. Callow sashays and stomps about. Otherwise Mr. Mitchell preoccupies himself, fussing with a pencil over scores spread on the top of the upright piano. Live music is nice, of course, but Mr. Mitchell’s arbitrary presence adds nothing to the drama.

Mr. Callow wanders on in a rather drab, ill-fitting outfit—a beige skirt and sleeveless red blouse also by Mr. Don—sporting an ugly blonde wig. He makes, in other words, an ungainly female. He paces about telling, in minute detail, how he cares for his ailing, elderly dad every Tuesday, commuting from a nearby town. He cooks, does the laundry by hand, chats with his dad, providing the particulars of his day in exhausting profusion. His father clearly despises his son’s self-transformation from Paul to Pauline, admonishing him about his looks and doing what he can to distance himself from his son/daughter as they trot off to Tesco’s for their weekly shopping. They meet acquaintances, buy over-priced goods and wait at a particular check-out counter and stop for tea. The word “Tuesday” is spoken scores of times. Then there is a bizarre twist at the end, coming out of the blue, an ending that is incomprehensible for many reasons. Revealing the reasons would expose the ending, so nothing will be said here.

Mr. Callow gives a committed, intricately nuanced performance. We see every mundane detail through his eyes. We giggle at his unprepossessing attempts at dance. We feel his indignancy at the insults thrown at him by his dad and at the surprised looks he gets en route to Tesco’s. The glances, the entire physical attitude and the slow, droll accent he affects all create a detailed portrait of a troubled human being.   He is a consummate stage actor.

The English adaptation by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande seems to give what probably was a tale of a particular gallic type, an Alan Bennett-esque, very English tone.

Simon Stokes, the director, kept the play moving along at a relaxed, but never monotonous pace.

 *Photos: Carol Rosegg

Tuesdays at Tesco’s – through June 7, 2015

59E59 Theaters  59 East 59th St., between Park and Madison Avenues  New York, NY

Tickets: 212-279-4200 or www.59E59.org

Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission

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