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Two Rooms

The Diverse City Theater Company offers up a disappointing revival of Lee Blessing's political drama.

Bree Michael Warner and Curran Connor
in Two Rooms
(© Carlos Damocles)
Lee Blessing is fascinated by political change as is evidenced in such plays as A Walk in the Woods, Going to St. Ives, Chesapeake and Two Rooms, which Diverse City Theater Company is reviving at the Lion Theatre at Theatre Row. Since the play is heavy on monologues and has a plot in which non-action is the principal action, it needs a more expert production than this one, directed by Jamie Richards, to be fully effective.

The show tells the tale of Michael Wells (Curran Connor), an American professor held hostage in Beirut while his wife, Lainie (Bree Michael Warner), keeps a lonely vigil in their home back in the United States. The theatricality of the piece relies on spontaneous actors who can inject unpredictability into somewhat predictable events.

Connor has clearly been directed to underplay Michael's monologues, a choice that can only work if there is still a sense, within his thoughtful ruminations, that the world outside his cell is one of intense and immediate danger. The underplaying is effective in the play's climax, but the actor seldom seems to connect to Michael's desires and fears. There is also little chemistry between him and Warner in the frequent sequences in which Michael and Lainie visit each other in their dreams.

For her part, Warner gets some of her big moments right, particularly at the point in which Lainie is really beginning to crack. But she anticipates many of her lines in a way that saps the dramatic energy of each scene. And she is also occasionally difficult to hear, even in the tiny Lion Theatre.

The theater company's artistic director, Victor Lirio, portrays Walker, a reporter who patiently works to earn Lainie's trust. Walker's motives are not fully explained by the playwright and so they should never be telegraphed to the audience. But the opposite problem takes place here, with Lirio playing too much of his role at the surface.

While Richards steps in with a directorial notion or two to physicalize some of Walker's unspoken feelings, his scenes with Lainie would be better served by an actor who could more effectively convey mystery and subtext. As it is, some of Lirio's dialogue, particularly a pivotal outburst late in the play, seems disjointed and arising from nowhere.

Only Dawn Evans, as a State Department official assigned to Michael and Lainie's case, has a fairly consistently compelling under-life to her character that is able to shine through Richards' sluggish pacing.

Blessing's play still has a lot to say about the agonizing process of political change, even as it speaks to us from an ancient time before Twitter, Facebook, and the Arab Spring. But it also remains a story in need of fully-dimensional human beings.