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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


Jacques Jouet and Olivier Salon

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Title: Two-Step
Author: Jacques Jouet and Olivier Salon
Genre: Play
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 33 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Two-Step - US
in: La Bibliothèque Oulipienne - volume 9 - France
  • a Boolean Comedrama
  • French title: Pas de deux
  • Originally published as volume 120 in La Bibliothèque Oulipienne
  • Translated by Emma Ramadan and Chris Clarke

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Our Assessment:

B+ : amusing little overlapping double-play

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Two-Step is a double-play, with two separate and then overlapping storylines, co-authored (by Jacques Jouet and Olivier Salon) and co-translated (by Emma Ramadan and Chris Clarke). (The substitute for the original title-pun -- the dance between two people, but the pas also suggesting something not of two -- is pretty good, 'two-step' suggesting both a joined dance and some avoidance.)
       As the authors' introductory note explains:

Here, we revive the proposition to put on two different plays at the same time, in the same place. At first, the two plays don't communicate with each other. Then, things get a bit complicated, as you will see.
       The action(s) begin side by side, in and at the side of a forest. The dialogue is presented in two columns, and, indeed, at first the scenes are entirely separate. One is set at the time of the French Revolution, a Countess holding a Marquis at rifle-point. The other is set in the present, and finds Julie waiting by the side of the road after a car accident, joined then by Kevin, the first passer-by to stop to help her.
       The rifle the Countess points at the Marquis suggests a less than friendly encounter -- though the Marquis feigns ignorance ("Might I at least know what I am accused of ?") and innocence. Meanwhile, Julie and Kevin engage in more flirtatious banter -- though Julie does note: "I have to warn you that I'm not Miss Julie, but Mrs. Julie" and that there's a husband waiting in the wings. It is the husband that will the connect the two storylines, as:
he's a movie actor. He's playing the part of Armand in a historical film. Armand is some sort of provincial nobleman during the French revolution.
       Things come to two heads in the first scene, dramatic -- "I will kill you, Marquis", the Countess vows -- and romantic -- stage directions, re. Julie: She kisses him -- and then scene two finds 'Armand' arriving. Both here and there. He is the Marquis' brother -- and, of course, Julie's husband. And while the two separate-in-time lines continue their separate ways, Armand appears, simultaneously, in both. Armand's words apply equally well to both situations, the two play(let)s continuing in their dual, parallel states, yet also bound together by Armand whose role is nominally identical in both. (Nominally, but not really, as his words take on different meaning depending on perspective, and elicit very different reactions). When the women leave the stage for the third scene: "It's just the two of us now", Armand can say -- but it's the two of them twice over, Armand and the Marquis on the one hand, Armand and Kevin on the other.
       It's clever dramatic fun -- Alan Ayckbourn-ish, with some Oulipian twists added -- and the authors take it one step further in taking Armand's confrontation with the Marquis and Kevin to its extremes, allowing the fourth (of the six scenes) to feature the two men on more or less the same plane (albeit in a somewhat "existential haze") and joining forces.
       It's a solid little mini-drama the authors have put together. The form dictates the content to some extent -- they play it up, of course; as Kevin says at one point:
What a joke ! It's like the world has been turned upside down; it's as if all of us have swapped roles.
       But it's a decent joke, and probably works quite well on the stage; it certainly does on the page.
       A small piece, but good fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 October 2018

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Two-Step: Reviews: OuLiPo: Other books by Jacques Jouet under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       French author Jacques Jouet was born in 1947 and elected to the Oulipo in 1983.

       French author and mathematician Olivier Salon was born in 1955 and elected to the Oulipo in 2000.

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© 2018-2021 the complete review

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