Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van by Mary Lynn Dobson was first presented in the FringeNYC Festival at the Connelly Theatre in New York City on August 16, 2009. It’s the quintessential nightmare parody of all things wrong with community theater — told by the ensemble cast at Little Theatre of Alexandria directed by Mike Donahue — at what could be any community playhouse where, due to a lack of wing space and funding, the company spends their downtime in the parking lot around the van of an aging hippie turned techie.
Anyone who has ever seen a community theater show may know these characters. Anyone who has ever been in a community theater production may be one of these characters. There’s Meredith, the wannabe diva who gets every lead, from Hello Dolly to Medea, but doesn’t quite get that her ingenue expiration date has passed. Played by actor Ann Brodnax, she gets a lot of laughs as she comes “backstage” and declares through every show, “I can’t act with this.” Eleanore Tapscott as Harriet adds to the comic relief as she discredits Meredith with her one-liners about Meredith’s acting abilities, or lack thereof. Ian Wade portrays Director Eric with wit as the character who definitely likes to put his own “Tarantino-esque” spin onto each and every show, which usually lends itself to inappropriate sexual undertones for his unwitting cast members. Kirk Lambert as Jeff successfully comes across as the tired, overworked artistic director.
It was funny to see the marquee letters drop the name of one show and move on to the next, as sort of a projection of the next production with the likelihood of new disasters lurking around the bend. Lighting designers Ken and Patti Crowley and set construction crew members Sha Choudhury, Shannon Doyle, Charles Dragonette, Julie Fischer, and Jenya Holbert were able to convey the atmosphere of a repertory playhouse.
The idea of Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van is ambitious in concept, sort of like the Noises Off play within a play, but as a whole, it lacks much-needed details in the delivery and depth of the characters. All the action takes place in the alley behind the theater. Some of the jokes fall flat or are lost as the characters are running — or bumbling — in and out of the stage’s back door, the costume/prop storage shed, or the back of a parked party van. The dialogue is a bit confusing to follow, and the significance of a mobile phone romance between Vondo — played by Paul Donohoe — and a woman who was apparently an inmate at a local prison, was very puzzling and made no sense. Joe Neff’s depiction of the tap-dancing, wannabe playwright promoting his mime musical was simply annoying.
In the end, though, we who perform and watch community theater know all about the anything-can-happen atmosphere, the egos, and the obstacles of putting on a show, and despite everything, the show must go on.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van plays through September 30, 2023, at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA. For tickets ($24) call the box office at (703)-683-0496. Reserved-seating tickets are available online or at the door on performance days.
The program for Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van is online here.
COVID Safety: LTA is mask optional in all their public spaces, including their auditorium. Though masking is now optional in their facilities, they support and encourage those who feel the need to continue to mask in public spaces.