Loudon Wainwright III’s one-man show, “Surviving Twin,” now onstage as part of Playmakers Repertory Company’s PRC² series, is a mash-up of monologue, film, photographs, and music. Wainwright is the son of the now-deceased former LIFE magazine editor and columnist Loudon Wainwright Jr. and has had a successful career as an actor, musician, and song-writer. He plays himself in this self-written show, though “plays” isn’t really the right word; Wainwright is not so much performing as he is offering his own musings on life. His banter focuses on a wide range of topics—he spends a lot of time talking about his father, his mother, his son, and even the family dog. And, every so often, Wainwright picks up a guitar and plays a folksy song that connects to one of these topics. Along the way, the production poses a few thoughtful questions, questions about what defines us and about how much choice we really have (or don’t have) in who we become.
These thoughtful questions, however, don’t make up for some of the faults with the show itself. While the production values are strong—especially Catherine Hevner Kemp’s intriguing set—the show itself comes across as slightly self-indulgent. Many of the stories and experiences that Wainwright shares are not unique to him, and while some may consider this the beauty of the production, many viewers will be disappointed. There is really nothing new to learn here, and the production’s slow, sometimes lulling quality has the tendency to make some segments feel too long and drawn-out.
That’s not to say that Wainwright’s piece is without merit. There are a few genuinely funny moments in the show, as well as a few touching ones, and it possesses a great nostalgic quality. Those who have a yearning for days gone by or who are fans of either Wainwrights’ work may find merit in this production, though it’s not a “must-see” for most.