Intrigue, injustice happen in Rover's Two Rooms|
By Penny Rathbun, Staff writer
November 12, 2007 9:18 AM CST
rooms are thousands of miles, continents apart. A man in a blindfold and handcuffs
is imprisoned in one. His wife, in the other.
is the setting for Lee Blessing’s play “Two Rooms” currently
being performed by Rover Dramawerks at the Cox Building Playhouse.
play is about, among other things, the forces that pull at Michael and Lainie
in the horrific situation in which they find themselves.
pull at Michael, played by Matt Gunther. He explains how his guards come in and
beat him if he isn’t wearing his blindfold or if it looks as if it’s
been retied or he may be beaten for no reason.
Michael was abducted off
the street one day from the campus of the American University in Beirut where
he was a professor.
He tells the audience that
his guards tell him he has been there for three years. Watching him hobble about
or try to find a comfortable position creates a feeling of heavy dread, and worse,
an unavoidable sense of discomfort.
Gunther’s portrait of a personality
under siege is engaging and fascinating. Michael manages to cope by clutching
to memories of his wife and their life together. He also somehow preserves fractions
of a sense of humor.
The portrayal contains a glimmer of hope for the character.
It would be so interesting to encounter Michael at a campus watering hole and
discuss philosophy or politics, but right now he’s in prison. He has more
important things to worry about than philosophy or politics.
At home, his
wife Lainie has emptied his study of furniture. She spends much of her time in
the empty room where she says she can feel the presence of her husband.
Justus’ portrayal of Lainie is her best Rover Dramawerks role so far. She
conveys the transformation of the young wife of a college professor to a woman
under a crushing load of pain and anger with a facial expression and a resigned
way of folding her arms.
In the same way her scenes with Michael are imbued
with sadness and futility. Her reaction when the captors free one of Michael’s
prison mates instead of him is chilling.
By this time the discomfort Michael
creates for the audience in the beginning is becoming almost palpable.
Rooms” was written in 1988, but it could have been written last year. Governments
abducting, imprisoning and torturing people does come right out of today’s
headlines. Michael might have a definite opinion on whether or not water boarding
is torture. That would be a question to discuss with him at the campus watering
hole, if that were possible.
Representing the forces that claim to know
better than Lainie or Michael what they should do about their situation are Shane
Strawbridge as Walker and Misty Baptiste as Ellen.
Ellen works for the
State Department and has been assigned to Lainie, possibly to make sure the wife
of the hostage does not talk to the wrong people or say the wrong thing in public.
is very conflicted. She hasn’t quite figured out yet how to totally subdue
her empathy. Baptiste’s Ellen may actually believe all the stuff she says
about the government.
The way Baptiste plays the government employee's
inability to keep her human side totally hidden somehow makes the character much
more sinister than if she played her as a stereotypical villainess.
interaction with Michael in a dream sequence gives the audience this question
to ponder. From which government does he have the most to fear?
Lainie is being courted by the media in the person of Walker, played by Shane
Strawbridge. He has the boyish look, the attitude and the wardrobe of the young
male journalist down perfectly, with an extra sprinkling of social skills. He
claims to be Lainie’s friend, but he is after a story. He is also full of
advice on what Lainie should do and how she should appear before the TV cameras.
Beth Hargrove’s direction, the play takes on a kind of drumbeat of emotions
that are never quite resolved.
Lainie's and Michael's plight leave a trail
of questions that will follow you home and then to work on Monday.
Dramawerks’ production of Two Rooms is a journey that is worth taking,
but come prepared. Leave the box at home and have your cerebrum up and awake.