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Arif Mirabdolbaghi and Adam Paolozza in The Double.

Lacey Creighton

3 out of 4 stars

There is a deliciously inventive piece of mime that marks the climax of The Double, a stage adaptation (with music) of the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella. Haunted by a doppelganger who must seem to the audience more psychological disturbance than actual person, the anxious little government clerk Golyadkin has finally invited the mysterious man into his apartment for conversation and vodka. Here, Adam Paolozza plays Golyadkin and Viktor Lukawski plays the double, presenting his questionable being with a limp, puppet-like body that his colleague manipulates the way you would a ventriloquist's dummy. The double, moved about the room like a giant doll, only speaks when Paolozza squeezes his cheeks to force his mouth open and then says his words for him. It is a fabulous physical representation of the way in which the assertive, self-confident double is but a creation of Golyadkin's self-doubting mind.

Of course, the creators know it's clever and funny and the scene is prolonged more than necessary: The Double, which is both narrated and accompanied on the double bass by rock musician Arif Mirabdolbaghi while Paolozza and Lukawski do the physical performing, is one of those charming companions who do tend to go on. The novella has more plot and characters than fit comfortably in a three-person stage show, and Golyadkin's relationship with a young woman – she is represented by the body of a violin – and her wealthy father are less interesting than his scenes with the double.

Paolozza and Mirabdolbaghi have said they were inspired to create the show partly by their own physical resemblance – both have black beards – but Mirabdolbaghi's face, staring at Paolozza's as if from a mirror, is only one of their several tricks for representing the double. Paolozza often plays the other himself, switching deftly from the touchy clerk with his petty pretensions to his garrulous, glad-handing doppelganger. On both sides of the coin, it is a lithe and engaging performance. Lukawski is equally flexible, distinguishing one secondary character from another with an impressive variety of physical comedy and mime.

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At his double bass, Mirabdolbaghi provides both the musical drive for Golyadkin's frenetic neurosis and occasional contemporary references. All are brought together in a fanciful climax of do-wop and vaudeville in which the poor clerk is issued off to the sanatorium by his German doctor. If Dostoyevsky foreshadowed Freud, this post-Freudian gang can mock him with élan.

The Double

  • Directed by Adam Paolozza
  • Created and performed by Arif Mirabdolbaghi, Adam Paolozza and Viktor Lukawski
  • At Factory Theatre in Toronto

The Double runs until Feb. 19.

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