Mark Cornell’s Two Turtle Doves at Common Ground Theatre Is 90 Minutes Well Spent


Common Ground Theatre’s production of Mark Cornell’s Two Turtle Doves provides an hour and a half of nonstop entertainment. Under Shelby Hahn’s direction, the pace never lets up, keeping us engaged from beginning to end. The script contains witty dialogue and poignant situations. Even though there are only two characters onstage, we are given a glimpse into a tangled web of relationships.

When the curtain rises, it’s Christmastime in Hawaii! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And this couple is spending it in paradise. He teaches high school biology and coaches the girls’ basketball team in a small, rural North Carolina town.

As a student, she had been his best-ever player; now, in her early twenties, she’s his assistant coach. His wife left him just weeks ago, taking “his boys” with her. So, he’s spending his usual “family week in Hawaii” with his attractive and attentive assistant. Is this the start of something good? Bad news from home could lead to trouble in paradise.

Alice Rose Turner gives us a multidimensional Assistant Coach Meredith Erwin. She’s feisty, defensive, and easily provoked while on the phone with the front desk. Face-to-face with her boss/lover, she’s pouty and submissive, but intent on getting her own way. Meredith has never been out of North Carolina, and Turner arms the character with an appropriate “tortoise-shell” (or should we say “turtle dove shell?”) defense strategy. Watch carefully as her moods shift — what else do we have to learn about her?

Jaybird O’Berski is nothing less than phenomenal as Coach James Littleton. This character is hard-boiled, rigidly goal-oriented, self-assured, and set in his ways. Or is he? He definitely has a few Achilles’ Heels, and O’Berski lets us see these chinks in his armor, showing, also, the patches that he has applied to them. He explodes onto the scene with a bang (or is it a splash?). And O’Berski never lets this intensity subside.

Obviously a student of Vince Lombardi, Coach Littleton knows that “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” But will there be any fallout from his past coaching “means” that he is convinced have been justified by the “ends.”

There is a constant morphing in the chemistry between these two characters. They obviously have a past and a present, but do they have a future?

The program credits Jeff Alguire with “Technical Direction and Design.” We found the set to be an impressive dead-ringer for the play’s setting — a hotel guest-lodge cabin on the beach in Hawaii. The furniture, the wall-dressings, and the sliding glass door — they’re all there and all quite real.

Costumes include a Hawaiian Christmas shirt and a Hawaiian Christmas wrap-around — cute! Jaybird O’Berski looks good in a few different outfits. And Alice Turner definitely looks good in her bathing suit, with-and-without the wrap-around.

Realistic sound effects add to the ambience. We were particularly impressed by the subtle sounds that we heard when the sliding door opened: sounds quite at home in this beach setting.

The Department of Picky-Picky was momentarily distracted when sounds from the telephones and the TV emerged from backstage rather than from closer to where the devices were actually located. But we got over it.

Thursday’s opening-night crowd was small, but they responded boisterously to the humor in the script. And tense moments abruptly led to thick feelings of tension throughout the audience. And, here and there, reminders of the time of year creep in subtly and ironically. Classic Mark Cornell!

Don’t wait until the Second Day of Christmas; now is the time to meet and get to know these Two Turtle Doves.

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks:; and Nov. 2nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:

Common Ground Theatre presents TWO TURTLE DOVES at 8 p.m. Nov. 3-5 and 10-12 at 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.

TICKETS: $13.41 (with service fee).


INFORMATION: 919-384-7817 or

SHOW: and




Mark Cornell (Chapel Hill, NC playwright): (official website) and (Facebook page).

Shelby Hahn (Durham, NC director): (Facebook page).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.