Review: A virtuoso trio shines in the dark slapstick comedy “The Double”

The touring show runs at the Hudson Village Theatre to September 11th, 2016

Photo Credit: Lacey Creighton

The Hudson Village Theatre’s fourth and final show of the 2015-16 season is a whimsical adaptation of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1846 masterpiece The Double. A visiting production from the Toronto-based Bad New Days Production theatre company, the play was remounted at the Tarragon Theatre, toured across Ontario (including a sold out run at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre), and now makes its Quebec premiere in quaint Hudson from September 7th to 11th, 2016. 

A physical but dark and deeply introspective comedy, “The Double” tells the tale of the tragic but humorous mental disintegration of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, the downtrodden assistant to the chief clerk in a government office in 19th Century Russia. Albeit polite, proper, and well-established, Golyadkin is a highly distressed man: lonely, distrustful, disturbed, and rather unsure of himself. In a visit to his German doctor, his internal conflict and anxiety are further revealed and he is told that he needs to get out and enjoy himself. Simple orders, but rather difficult ones to follow when you feel as if the world is constantly conspiring against you.

Humiliated, rejected, and heartbroken, his perception of being persecuted is further intensified and confirmed when he suddenly comes across a mysterious figure on the streets of St. Petersburg at night. Seemingly identical in garments and appearance, the stranger is disturbingly familiar, and Golyadkin chases him down the entrance of his own apartment and into his own bedroom.

When he finally encounters the intruder face-to-face, he is horrified to discover that he has met his double… his spitting mirror image… a man equal to him in all regards, and the story of their intricate relationship begins.

Threatened by the presence and superiority of his doppelgänger (where Golyadkin is socially awkward, the double is charming, confident, and winsome), the sanity of our protagonist spirals further downward as he faces questions of success, social status, self, and sense. Does no one else realize that there is another human being impossibly identical to him casually walking around town and at work? Why does everyone adore and favour this man? Is this newcomer really his double, or could he just be paranoid?

Photo Credit: Lacey Creighton
Viktor Lukawski and Adam Paolozza in “The Double”. Photo Credit: Lacey Creighton

Adam Paolozza, who here portrays our miserable “hero” – and subject source of schadenfreude – captures and physicalizes Golyadkin’s neurotic demeanour with Chaplinesque flair, precision, and energy. (Paolozza is also the director and co-adapter of the play in addition to being the Artistic Director of Bad New Days Productions).

Viktor Lukawski showcases extraordinary versatility and skill in his various assigned roles – the most notable among them being Golyadkin’s doctor, boss, and servantThe chemistry and fellowship between him and Paolozzo is immediate and indisputable and together their over-the-top physical comedy make The Double the delightful, quick-on-its-feet act that it is.

Setting the tone and rhythm of the piece is Arif Mirabdolbaghi who himself doubles in providing witty commentary as the narrator and acoustic accompaniment as the sole musician on stage. The double bass is truly an integral element of the performance and Mirabdolbaghi is charismatic, poised, present, and perfectly attuned to the other two members of the ensemble. No third wheel in this triangle of a troupe.

Photo Credit: Lacey Creighton
Arif Mirabdolbaghi is the Narrator/Musician in “The Double”. Photo Credit: Lacey Creighton

The Double is has been nominated for 7 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including Outstanding Direction, Ensemble and Musical Score. It won for Outstanding Lighting Design, and deservedly so: Andre do Toit’s lighting is a small spectacle on its own, thoughtfully casting shadows and creating illumination to reflect the duality of the piece.

Photo Gallery (Credit: Lacey Creighton)

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While The Double is wonderfully reminiscent of the slapstick comedies of the good ol’ days, it’s still refreshingly contemporary in style and relevant in content. Golyadkin’s struggles with loneliness, social conformity, unrequited love, and emotional and mental wellbeing are timeless. The concept of doubling functions as the ultimate fracturing of identity and personality and it provides a means for us to project ourselves. Who are we, really? What are the masks we wear and the roles we play in society? Where are the boundaries between what is real and what is merely a figment of our imaginations? These are just some of the few questions we’re moved and provoked to investigate.

Part poetic comedy, part tragedy, part psychological thriller, part musical concert, The Double and its captivating cast of three is bound to make you laugh (mostly so you don’t cry) and is a most fitting selection by Hudson Village Theatre’s Artistic Director Matthew Tiffin to end the theatre company’s 2016 summer stock season, “Games We Play.”

“The Double” plays at the Hudson Village Theatre (28 Rue Wharf, Hudson, J0P 1H0) for only 8 performances and runs to September 11th, 2016. Tickets are $27-29 (regular admission) and can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at (450) 458-5361. For more information, visit villagetheatre.ca/events/the-double


“THE DOUBLE”

Presented by Bad New Days Production
Directed by Adam Paolozza
Created and Performed by Adam Paolozza, Arif Mirabdolbaghi & Viktor Lukawski
Music by Arif Mirabdolbaghi
Set Design Ken Mackenzie
Light Design André Du Toit
Sound Design Charles Ketchabaw
Associate Director Lisa Marie DiLiberto
Creative Collaborator Norah Sadav
Stage Manager Dylan Tate-Howarth
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