Carolyn Pool and Shanan Custer have a good deal of themselves invested in "2 Sugars, Room for Cream." Veterans of the small and midsized theater scene, Pool and Custer took on that riskiest of gambits: writing and performing their own show. If the writing is bad, it's their fault. If the acting is bad, it's their fault. If the production is meager, it's their fault.
On the other hand, what sweeter joy is there when it all comes together? "2 Sugars," which opened Thursday at the New Century Theatre in Minneapolis, brims with charm as Pool and Custer wrangle their way through an evening's worth of vignettes. Staged with a minimum of fuss and laced with a constant musical undercurrent (designed by Eric Webster), the show finds a rhythm in ordinary events. The writing is never less than nimble and at moments approaches the emotional reaches of art.
Pool and Custer test-drove this show at the 2009 Fringe Festival and they -- along with director Peter Moore -- have made it sharper, happier and more comfortable. A few tinkers wouldn't hurt: the actors could incorporate the scene transitions into something more seamless and essential, and they will learn that head microphones pick up every sniff and cough. Picky stuff.
They have fashioned their scenes with a nice variety. Pool plays a slightly neurotic diner who asks her waitress with just the right fretful anxiety to write down her order -- because her therapist writes down everything, and that validates what she is saying. Custer shows off her impressive comic chops as a woman who unravels while talking about "Twilight" and the vexations of dating. Each woman takes a solo bit, Custer as an English professor on the first day and Pool in a wonderfully poignant moment as a pregnant woman making a video for her baby.
Pool and Custer allow a couple of scenarios to weave through the show. The best thread unspools the trepidation of two women meeting at a high school reunion, their bonding over booze, the high hopes when it looks like they might score with some old classmates and the ugly 3 a.m. reality of being alone at Denny's.
Other snippets keep the show buoyant, diverse and enjoyable. Further, one gets the sense of delight in the actors. Portraying two drones on a subway who discover they are listening to the same song on their iPods, Pool and Custer launch into a fantasia, dancing with delirium. It seems an apt metaphor for performers who have found something in each other that was worth developing into their own show. Good for them.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299