The premise may be that of a schoolyard fantasy, but Double Recessive has enough humour and heart to fuel a dozen shows. Jordan Lloyd Watkins’ one man production is a slick exploration of what it means to be different in a world that values those that are the same.
In a not so distant future, red hair is removed from the gene pool as an undesirable trait. Not long after, an anomaly is born. Subject Red-1 (Watkins), AKA Simon, is studied from childhood as an aberrant life form on an otherwise ginger-less Earth.
Watkin’s story takes the words of the schoolyard bully and throws them under the hot lamp, forcing them to grow into something monstrous. Seemingly innocent jokes quickly become racial tensions. Ridicule turns to fear. And the strength of will to overcome the words and misconceptions of the masses is quickly shown to be the waste our childhood selves suspected. In Double Recessive, Watkins takes a childhood taunt (ginger, carrot top, fire crotch, etc.) and turns it into a worldwide panic using the the one-man show trinity of video clips, lighting cues, and an assortment of hats.
The show is tight. The pacing is solid, the delivery is on point, and the show has a momentum that keeps the audience fully engaged throughout. But the comedy of the show softens its darker implications causing the show to read lighter than the content warrants, and the laughs come at the expense of the sincerity of the premise. We are told to laugh at the fate of the gingers in the beginning of the show so we never quite take their plight seriously. Any deeper exploration of prejudice is hindered by Watkins’ desire to get a laugh.
Double Recessive is a beautifully built show that is too funny for its own good. Unable to truly grapple with the issues it presents, Double Recessive becomes a light-hearted version of the dark comedy it could be.
Double Recessive written and performed by Jordan Lloyd Watkins. Directed by David Bloom. No further performances. As part of the 2015 rEvolver Theatre Festival. Visit https://www.upintheairtheatre.com for more information.