Branches sprawl in a convoluted tangle across the heavens of the set at the Women’s Project Theater. It’s quite an image for a show that exposes the confusing mess of a Mormon family tree in which a father marries his daughter’s best friend years before the daughter’s husband marries her half sister, who is the daughter of her father and the best friend.
The flat, stylized tree, dwarfing the stage like Jack’s beanstalk, also suggests the fantastical quality of a fable, a touch that enhances the reach of Julie Jensen’s lovely new play, ”Two-Headed.”
The play depicts five episodes over 40 years in the lives of two Utah women of the late 1800’s. Steeped in the hard facts of Mormon frontier history, Ms. Jensen’s script has a gentle, poetic allure that is wonderfully realized in its New York premiere, directed with relaxed assurance by Joan Vail Thorne.
Lizbeth Mackay and Deirdre O’Connell play Hettie and Lavinia, childhood friends who are entering adolescence in the wake of tragedy: the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre, in which more than 100 travelers from Missouri and Arkansas were killed by a Mormon militia and its Indian allies.
Hettie and Lavinia are haunted by the event, a stain on their emerging universe that won’t come out. Guilt afflicts them, though they could no more have stopped the killings than they can stop polygamy or other disempowering aspects of the Mormons’ patriarchal culture.
How do children endure such a burden? Hettie and Lavinia endure thanks to their friendship, which survives challenges that would break others.
Read the entire review here. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/19/movies/theater-review-a-mormon-family-tree-or-is-it-really-spaghetti.html