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REVIEW: Dire Laughs and Send-Up in Two Mile Hollow (Mu Performing Arts/Mixed Blood)

A case of deadly ennui strikes a wealthy family in Two Mile Hollow. Pictured: Sun Mee Chomet, Eric Sharp, and Kathryn Fumie. Photo by Rich Ryan.

One of Karl Marx’s most famous soundbytes states that history repeats itself twice: first as tragedy, then as farce. Marx wrote this turn of phrase to critique parallels between the French Revolution and the coup d’etat that put Napoleon III into power. Leah Nanako Winkler’s play Two Mile Hollow is a satire-turned-farce that critiques a much-repeated cornerstone of the American play repertoire.

Two Mile Hollow, co-produced by Mu Performing Arts and Mixed Blood Theatre, is a new play that premiered last fall in Chicago. This is what the new play world is calling a rolling premiere, which isn’t terribly relevant to this review here. More relevant is that this contributed to the strong advance buzz about Two Mile Hollow, including a sold-out opening night performance.

In a nutshell, this play is a parody of what I call #FirstWorldProblemPlays: those populated by affluent Caucasians who mostly complain that their lives are dysfunctional and unhappy, often in some grand and very expensive location. Think Chekov’s Three Sisters without the depth of drama – or, for that matter, Girls. The extent to which this setup pervades Western drama is most visible when you turn things on their head, as this play does: all of the characters are played by Asian American actors, with enough twists that it puts some of the ridiculousness into clearer perspective.

Sometimes, when writing a review, you wish that your editor was sitting next to you, so that you could ask them questions about how you should feel (if that’s actually possible to pin down). In the opening scenes of Two Mile Hollow, I wished I had mine next to me in the theatre, to ask if it was okay as a Caucasian person to laugh at some of the situational humor. My fellow audience people didn’t suffer from this problem, and 10 minutes in I gave in and just started laughing at the ridiculousness of the sendup. Some of the best humor shines a light on serious issues in society and our lives, and Winkler’s script has a lot of that.

The cast of Mu Performing Arts and Mixed Blood Theatre’s Two Mile Hollow. Photo by Rich Ryan.

The strong cast is practically a reunion of last season’s Vietgone at Mixed Blood. Sun Mee Chomet plays a commanding Blythe, capturing the essentialism of countless matriarchs. Meghan Kreidler’s Charlotte is the sane-ish/coping/sorta stable one, filled with entertaining quirks. Throw in entertaining eruptions by Sherwin Resurreccion’s Joshua, the slick one you love to to hate Christopher (Eric Sharp), and the ingenue Mary played by Kathryn Fumie, and that’s a TV-ready family of dysfunction.

It would be easy for something like Two Mile Hollow to be simple parody, or to come across as a mean-spirited parody. Winkler’s script deftly manages the tone and pacing, and Randy Reyes’ direction strikes just the right balance. You might see this play and want to shake up the entertainment establishment.

Two Mile Hollow plays through March 4 at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Amy Donahue