"Two Rooms" Review
I had the pleasure of experiencing the North Carolina Stage Company Catalyst Series production of Lee Blessing's "Two Rooms". If perchance a performance is starting soon and you are sitting down to read this review, let me save you some time, go see it.
I usually hate it when a production uses the word "timely". It usually denotes the dragging of politics, like a corpse, into the middle of the stage, for the actors and audience to trip over. This play is timely in the best way. The press release describes it as thus, "The play sheds light on the anguish of a man taken hostage in Beirut, and the emotional torture and helplessness of his wife, impatient for something to be done, and government officials who must be guided by logic rather than emotion." Obviously, the place and conflict are familiar, it is timely. This play succeeds in being timely because at the center is not why or why not we should do this or that, but the simple human pain that drives what we need to do. And it is the presence of human pain, today, tomorrow, and yesterday that makes this play beautiful. It is the type of pain, and the type of human frailties that bring it, that makes this play timely.
The play is indeed, an amazing piece of writing, but this was not what I left the theatre thinking. I left simply overwhelmed.
At first, I was skeptical about seeing a show on the first night. Asheville theatre does not usually accommodate for the type of rehearsal which provides for the best opening night. My fears were completely unfounded. This production is award worthy on opening night. Never before in my time of seeing shows have I ever wanted to leap out of my seat with emotion the way I did last night. I wanted to scream, just to make sure I still could. I wanted the hug the characters, just because they needed it. What was being depicted on stage was real. I overheard one woman tell the actor playing the hostage that she wanted to "hug him and show him sunlight", because he needed it. I was completely amazed at how much the actors were able to make us care for them.
The play is carried by four amazing actors of the Asheville stage. Erik Moellering touches our hearts as the hostage husband, brilliantly pulling off monologues full of the ideas of a man who has nothing to do but think. Kelley Hinman excellently pulls off the pent up frustration of a reporter who wants to do SOMETHING, anything to help through his tool of the media. Lucia Del Vecchio portrays an agent of the State Department assigned to the case. Ms. Del Vecchio deftly handles the passionless speech of the government, adding in just enough humanity to serve the double purpose of making both the character and her unique choices at the end real. Last, but certainly not least, is Vivian Smith. Her character of Lainie practically carries the entire play on her back. If we do not believe her sorrow, her inability to cope, or rage, the play would fall apart. Ms. Smith beautifully pulls off this character, proving an excellent foil for injustices of the world, her largest scene partner.
Another word must be said for the director and producer, Callan White. In addition to applauding her hutzpah to produce such a play, or any play for that matter, we must applaud her work as a director. She is invisible as the show progresses, always the mark of a good director. It feels as if these characters just stormed on stage and told us their story with out ever knowing we were there. And thank god. That's the way it should be. But we know Ms. White has been there, by the sheer brilliance of the overall production. A show this good could not have come together without a brilliant director presiding over brilliant actors in a beautiful collaboration.
I know I'm using a lot of awfully big adjectives, but this production warrants it. It is a beautiful emotional experience. It is a real experience. You will be making a huge mistake if you don't go to NC Stage and see this show. See it, live it, and then go out and do something about it.
(In the interests of full disclosure, it should be stated that the reviewer is going to be a student under Ms. White in the coming semester.)
Nathan H. Adams
16 November 2008
"Two Rooms" Review