I walked into the premier of the Comrades’ production of Mary-Kate Olsen Is in Love, knowing that it would be a quirky one, hence the title. I thought I would understand the jokes clearly because I watched the Olsen twins grow from “You’re Invited,” to “Winning London,” to Mary-Kate and Ashley lip gloss, to Mary-Kate’s marriage to the former French president’s brother, Olivier Sarkozy. The script by Mallery Avidon is directed by Derek Bertelsen.
But, I ended up never finding out why this set of twins was chosen as lead roles. Avidon’s plot is about a career woman, played by Carolyn Sinon, in an unsatisfying marriage with a jobless, unmotivated video-game addict. Mary-Kate inspires this woman, Grace, to take control of her life, to leave her husband and to run away to New Zealand with her.
Mary-Kate and Ashley are both figments of Grace’s imagination, as is made clear by their recurring appearances in her dreams. When Grace runs away with Mary-Kate, Ashley becomes resentful that she has to shop in New York solo.
Perhaps Angela Horn’s portrayal of Mary-Kate symbolizes the modern woman with the character’s artsy career and independent wealth. Perhaps we, as the audience, are meant to understand that, ironically, the people who catalyzed both she and her sister’s careers were her parents.
That being said, the Mary-Kate symbol makes some sense, while the Ashley symbol doesn’t seem to exist. Somehow, she becomes close with Grace’s ex-husband after Grace leaves. I kept trying to find a way to fit her metaphorically into the story, whether it be that she is the polar opposite of Mary-Kate, or that she plays the sister version of the unsatisfying husband. But, none of those theories seemed to explain Cydney Moody’s role as Ashley.
That’s where the group of four anxious high school cheerleaders comes in. Each one has an anxiety related to gaining success. We are introduced first to the cheerleader who wishes she could do more than jump around and shout for physical exercise. Then, there’s the overachiever who goes on her first date, the one who isn’t sure if she ever wants to raise a family and another overachiever.
Societal expectations from a female are compared to those from a male, when Grace’s separation from her brick wall of a husband provokes him to “be a man” and join the military.
I respect Avidon’s effort in writing successful, famous 20-somethings into the plot to satirize gender roles, and Bertelsen’s work in bringing this to life. However, save for few – soft – chuckle-inducing moments, a clever connection between characters never truly materialized.
Get your $15 tickets for the show, playing through March 29, at the Apollo Theatre’s studio theater stage, 2540 N. Lincoln.