Debuting a boisterous story of Manhattan in a quiet corner of Dublin, Penny Jackson’s Going Up launches the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival with an intimate and whimsical charm. Played by two performers, the one-hour piece ensnares two incompatible characters in a frustrating scenario: a stuck elevator. One is short, straight, neurotic to the point of heart failure, and unnervingly loud. The other is tall, gay, composed to the last stroke of eye-shadow, and equally loud. At first glance, the situation reads as a hackneyed setup where the fun lies in watching opposing forces collide while finding unlikely commonalities. Yet the device of these characters’ collision is what brands Going Up with originality, and how New Yorker Jackson colours her characters with monikers of home makes them believable peers to relate to and not simply trite archetypes to gaze upon.
The trickiest aspect of any comedy of this nature is initiating the unlikely relationship. In a span of time already cut to an hour, director Mark Pollard and his players find their greatest difficulty in making this first transition believable. Drag queen Simone (Jonathan Chambers) and car salesman Jack (Andrew Fettes) wade awkwardly through plucky lines at show’s opening to portray a genuine connection before settling comfortably into a forum of mutual exchange. Through smiles and wit that belie lives of exasperation, the two use their enclosed space to surmount divorce, drug abuse, impotence, and stress. The set is noticeably bare, depicted by a simple chalked silhouette of a Manhattan skyline, but Fettes and Chambers find an ease and pace which lend credence to the snappy New York dialogue. Without contrived lesson or agenda, the show is simply about connection and learning through others. This odd couple represents an idea that life never gets too far along to find surprise and joy in revelation, even in the shortest and most unforeseen encounters. Joe Madsen