nytheatre.com review by James Comtois
August 12, 2008
Doppelganger Joe is a 30-minute one-woman show written and performed by Caroline Lesley about, well, someone meeting her doppelganger.
Lesley plays Joe Cole, a manic, down-on-her-luck brunette actress going nowhere fast. While preparing for an audition, a friend calls to tell her to check out a Web site that shows you your doppelganger. Since the myth says that you die once you meet your doppelganger, she's apprehensive (well, since she goes to the site immediately after hanging up with the friend, she can't be that apprehensive, but never mind that). She finds her ringer, a blonde British woman named Lilly Joe (also played by Lesley). They meet and become friends.
One day, Lilly accidentally walks into an audition session for a role Joe has just tried—and failed—to get (we're given the impression that it's not just bad luck or a tough market that's stopping Joe from getting her big break: she's just not very good). Lilly wows the casting agent and her career takes off. Joe ends up being Lilly's anonymous stunt-double and is of course consumed with jealousy. And...well, I think you can see where this is all going.
The main problem with Doppelganger Joe is that it has only one joke, and the joke isn't particularly funny. Even with only a 30-minute runtime, the show's weak premise limps along until it has nowhere left to go.
There's also a problem with one of the personas: Joe is fundamentally obnoxious and irritating. She's unlikable and unsympathetic, and not in an interesting way. For example, she gives a constant running commentary for all her actions, which ends up being quite grating. Since Lesley portrays Lilly with some grace and appeal, I'll assume this is a deliberate choice; I'm just hard-pressed to figure out why.
Something else is going on here I found a bit odd: Joe has what feels like a borderline psychotic obsession with her body image. She has this bulletin board with pictures of models and actresses and notes to look like them (with even a picture of her face taped over one model's). However, since Lilly, her exact double, becomes a famous actress without effort, Doppelganger Joe doesn't seem to be making any sort of comment on the unreasonable demands Hollywood makes on women; it's just another neurosis Joe has.
I will admit that the show gave me one big laugh toward the end when an off-stage film director gives Joe a surprisingly demeaning assignment (which I won't reveal here). It was a nice comedic sucker-punch.
At the end of the day, Doppelganger Joe just seems to be a vehicle for Lesley to play two different characters. And unfortunately, neither performance is particularly captivating.