‘Diptych’ Finds Depth in Duality

The meager set, the sole two actors, and the simplicity of their movements belied the gravity of the underlying themes of “Diptych.” The show was directed by Steve Kleinedler and produced by nearby theater group The Plant at Somerville’s Elizabeth Peabody Theater.

Written and performed by Sara Faith Alterman and David Mogolov, two active participants in the local Boston theater and improv scene, the play was a mix of intensely personal dramatic monologue and hilarious physical comedy. The show stayed true to its name; like a diptych—two parallel wooden panels connected by a hinge—the main characters’ stories were separate and dissimilar, yet convened on a singular theme of anger that emerged throughout the play. The complexity of that theme lent uncommon depth to its characters, and made “Diptych” a moving exploration of the human condition.

“I have a temper,” main characters Sara (Alterman) and David (Mogolov) both announce in their first lines. In the first scene, Sara immediately erupts into a rant about how she has inherited her explosive rage from her father. David proceeds to describe his own anger, so affected by his indifference towards life that even it is apathetic; the way in which he copes with his temper is to sleep. As the play progresses, the two trade off their storytelling in a series of anecdotes that involves Sara’s hatred of everyone she knows and David’s unwillingness to try anything remotely new. Eventually, both realize that their jaded perspectives conceal well-developed defense mechanisms against deeper fears and secrets.

As Sara, Alterman emanated a passionate and intimidating ferocity that, at times, verged on psychosis. While her yelling quickly became old, she effectively portrayed her character’s inner rage. Alterman’s performance was touching and powerful not because of how loud she could be, but because of the means by which she built tension between Sara and the audience. Alterman effectively revealed Sara’s cursing and screaming as an attempt to cope with her rape by a classmate ten years ago, and led us to understand how a minor character in one of Sara’s anecdotes could call her “delicate.”

Mogolov was engaging and funny as David, who undergoes his own form of self-discovery while attempting to find a new job—a remarkable venture for his usual laziness. Mogolov’s deadpan comedy was more likely to garner easy laughs; for instance, David claims that his biggest problem is that he is “a shmuck.” Mogolov’s portrayal of David’s lethargy was amusingly self-deprecating; although he did not have the weight of a deeply rooted pain to portray, he mastered David’s laziness with the nonchalant delivery of his jokes.

The music, directed by Dan Alterman, was well tailored to the personalities and growth of each character. Sara’s accompaniment was full of dark tones, whereas the modern instrumental music accompanying David’s scenes was lighter, more playful, and eminently suitable for his character. Kleinedler’s effective direction and blocking made good use of space, allowing the characters’ movements to become an essential, often comic part of their performances.

The appeal of “Diptych” was based largely on the connection that Alterman and Mogolov maintained with the audience, and thus the set design was appropriate in its minimalism. The actors played not only Sara and David, but also other characters and even pretended to use props that were essential to their stories. These “props” were used well for comedic effect.

Ultimately, “Diptych” tells two stories of loss and anger. Despite both Sara’s and David’s difficult journeys of self-discovery, Alterman and Mogolov resoundingly evoked the power of using humor to overcome painful personal obstacles.