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Volume XVII, Issue 3 - January 15 - January 21, 2009
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Colonial Players’ Two Rooms

When Michael Wells, played by Ben Carr, is held hostage in a dank, barren room, his wife Lanie, played by Heather Quinn, creates a barren room in her apartment to try to understand his existence.

es Only Answers

Being passionate about the horrors of hostage taking is a one-note theme

reviewed by Davina Grace Hill

A man is kidnapped and held hostage for three years. How does he cope? How does his wife react? How much does his government care? How does the press cover the facts? These are the questions asked by Lee Blessing in Two Rooms, written in 1988.

Blessing is an author who likes big issues and won multiple awards for his earlier play, A Walk in The Woods. But Two Rooms is far less effective as a piece of theater. Theater is about dialogue and interaction. Two Rooms is a four-character play of monologues and occasional harangues. Without interplay and reaction among the characters, they don’t connect with the audience.

Actors and director Edd Miller obviously care about their subject: this “quiet, sledgehammer of a statement on kidnapping and terrorism,” as Two Rooms is called in program notes.

No moral quibbles here; just theatrical ones.

Start with Blessing’s writing style, add Miller’s unblinking intensity, stir in four actors monologuing — and the moral outrage is hammered home while the theatrical experience fails to satisfy.

Of the four actors, Terry Averill as Walker Harris the journalist, does best at trying to show multiple sides and create dialogue with fellow actors. Is this journalist a truth-seeker or a sensationalist? Is he after the real facts or only those that fit his sensibilities? With Averill’s nuances sometimes you believe one, then the other, just as in real life, when shades of facts make certainty difficult.

Ben Carr portrays Michael Wells, the prisoner held hostage in a dank, barren room. Heather Quinn portrays wife Lanie Wells, who creates a barren room in her apartment to try to understand the existence her husband is enduring. Hence the Two Rooms of the title. Carr and Quinn are both intense in their portrayals, but some variety in intensity would have helped. Being earnest and passionate about the horrors of hostage taking is a single one-note theme played overlong.

The fourth character is portrayed by Beth Terranova. Her State Department official, Ellen Van Oss, is given few redeeming aspects by the playwright; Terranova has to open the second act with a harangue. She tries to humanize the character but can’t overcome the flaws written into the role.

Edd Miller’s direction reinforces the weaknesses of the script rather than countering them. Characters spend most of the play in one body position (Lanie with her arms crossed, Walker with his hands in his pockets, Ellen standing ramrod straight and Michael shackled and blindfolded). The characters rarely vary their cadences, inflection or intensity.

Colonial Players’ recent Kindertransport made you want to ask yourself questions. What new things have I learned? What has been revealed? Even Rabbit Hole, another recent production, raised similar thoughtful questions. Two Rooms, unfortunately, only repeats known answers.

Stage manager: Herb Elkin. Lighting Designer: Harvey Hack. Set Designer: Edd Miller.Playing thru Jan. 18 at 8pm ThFSa; 2pm Su @ Colonial Players, Annapolis. $20 w/age discounts; rsvp: 410-268-7373.


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