Despite Lee Blessing's heavy-handed metaphors and Peter Flynn's too-literal direction, what ultimately matters is not the room, but what's inside it: on that account, Angela Christian and Michael Laurence acquit themselves nicely as a husband and wife separated by a terrorist's political demands.
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
When Lainie's (Angela Christian) husband, Michael (Michael Laurence) is kidnapped by terrorists on an oversea trip, she resolves to continue to live her life in parallel to his, convinced that living in a dark room, devoid of furniture, will somehow make her feel closer to him. Two Rooms uses this heavy-handed metaphor, to draw the attention of Ellen van Oss (Adinah Alexander), a professional shrew for the State Department, and the manipulative friendship of Walker Harris (Patrick Boll), a reporter obsessed with forcing the government's hand.
The play that follows is too structurally clever to seem real, and Peter Flynn's literal direction (the two rooms are the same set, cued only by a difference in lighting) often confuses the thrust of the action--especially since the actors often sit in the visible wings, watching. These artificial moments don't seem so bad, though, with a blindfold on, and Mr. Laurence does a wonderful job--smooth, strong, and even--living in his dangerous present or, ghost-like, interacting with his comforting past. (Again: it's the same room.) Ms. Christian also feeds nicely off this energy: it gives her a rawer emotion to play with than the intelligent and collected soundbites that she shares with her restrained and professional visitors. Quips and metaphors about birds, for example, are straining to put the hostage situation into context; Lee Blessing does his best writing when he's simply dealing with the actual circumstance (or the dream that Lainie has conjured up for it) and ignoring the lecturing from Ellen (there's a literal PowerPoint presentation of war photos).
Ultimately, it's not the room that's important, but what's inside it--or, in Lainie's case, what's missing from it. The more that Blessing and Flynn fill that world with clever metaphors and literal interpretations, the harder it is for the actors to actually deal with their loneliness and grief.
Two Rooms (1hr 50min; 1 intermission)
Theater Row (410 West 42nd Street)
Tickets (212-279-4200): $59.25
Performances (through 10/19): Mon. & Tues. @ | Thurs. - Sat. @ 8 | Sat. @ 2 | Sun. @ 3 & 7
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