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Pictured: Sean Higgins | Photo by Katie Reynolds
by Marie Warner
The Agency Theater Collective’s production of INTERNATIONAL FALLS is a challenging, uncomfortable look at human nature and the deep need for connection and understanding.
Tim is a comedian on a small tour of the upper Midwest and is performing at a Holiday Inn in International Falls, MN. There he meets Dee, the front desk clerk, and they engage in a one night stand that changes both of them.
The structure of the show alternates between Tim’s stand-up and his time with Dee. While he is vulnerable and legitimately funny in the hotel room, his stand-up is brutal to watch. All his self-loathing and insecurity is masked by a snide exterior that falls away when he is with Dee.
Dee is an open, loving person who is wrestling with the choice to cheat on her husband, her high school sweetheart. Her humor and resilience profoundly affect Tim, and his presence enables her to make significant life changes.
Sean Higgins plays Tim with compassion and a strong sense of irony. He lets Tim be a schmuck but doesn’t confine him to that one role. A particularly deft moment has Tim acknowledging how much he hates making the fat jokes in his act: how awful he feels when he sees how it hurts the audience, but that he can’t be bothered to write new material.
Marie Weigle is wonderful as Dee. Her enthusiasm and love of life are evident even as she navigates a devastating situation. Weigle brings so much heart and nuance to Dee that it is impossible for Tim not to be affected.
Cody Lucas’ direction is solid. With just two people in a hotel room, blocking risks getting stagnant. If anything, Lucas errs too far in the other direction, and at times it can feel like the characters are chasing each other around the room.
Thomas Ward has written a humorous, emotional and heartbreaking play. The dialogue is very naturalistic, and the only sentimentality comes at the end. In a way, the ending feels inevitable, but Weigle and Higgins’ performances make their choices feel genuine and new.