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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Emotionally Charged

Theater Reviews

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  Robb Smith plays an American college professor working overseas in Beirut who is captured by terrorists. Forced to take in the world around him through sound alone, the professor spends much of his time trying analyzing the social complexity of his situation. Smith has a firm grasp on the character’s intellectual side, rendering an intelligent performance that is solidly rooted in emotional reality.

  Meaghan Sullivan-Willis plays his wife Lanie—a teacher who hasn’t been working lately. She spends much of her time observing the local birds and communing with her husband by sitting in a now vacant room that used to be his office. Sullivan-Willis’ portrayal of her character is very compelling, but there’s a sense of emotional detachment in parts of her performance that makes it difficult to relate to her. When speaking about the politics of her situation and the specifics of her interactions with the State Department, there is a kind of cold bitterness. This effectively delivers some of the character’s pain, but the emotional distance from nearly everyone onstage extends a bit uncomfortably into the audience, making it difficult to feel for her.

  The two other people in Lanie’s life are a reporter and an official from the State Department. Tom Bruno plays the reporter with the kind of passion needed to portray a journalist trying to squeeze a story out of a woman reluctant to talk. The character’s underlying motivations, however, aren’t defined enough in the script to give Bruno much to work with. Jacque Troy delivers a standout performance as Lanie’s contact with the State Department. Troy is chillingly sweet—like the customer service representative from hell who is so completely attached to the line of information coming out of Washington that she seems physically incapable of going off message. Her scenes with Sullivan-Willis are captivating enough to make the pain and anguish of Blessing’s story worth sitting through, even for those of us who’d already seen it two years ago. Two Rooms closes May 24.

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