First written in 1988 by Tony award nominee,Lee Blessing,Two Roomsis a powerful exploration of love, loss and life in an unrelenting and often inexplicably cruel world. Sadly though, its Sydney debut byLedlight Theatre Company, doesn’t quite pack the punch it needs to make the tears roll.
Lauded “The best play of the year” by none other than TIME Magazine back in the ’80s, Two Rooms tells the story of Michael Wells (Nick Dale), an American professor held hostage in militia-controlled Beirut, and his science teacher wife Lainie (Laura Huxley), back home in the United States who is dealing with her loss via reporter Walker Harris (Eli King) and government case worker, Ellen Van Oss (Coralie Bywater). The title takes its name from the stage setting: one room representing both Michael’s windowless prison and his office back home, which is stripped of furniture and inhabited by Lainie. This one room, doubling as two, symbolically represents Michael and Lainie’s pain.
This crucial part of the story is done well – Tap Gallery hosts an underground cell/depression room very nicely – and there are some genuinely impressive props like the hourglass-style spill of sand from above – an extended metaphor for the continual and crushing flow of time. Great, too, is the majority of Blessing’s script. It’s interesting, intriguing and at times educationally poignant. Unfortunately it’s the cast that lets this performance down.
Without a doubt, all four are passionate about their trade, in particular Nick shining through as the star of the show, but simple things like accents and line learning need a little work. So too does the styling. Fabulous hair and a cute necklace does not a grieving wife make. One does hope that these creases will get ironed out after a few shows.
Overall, if you want something to make you think then Two Rooms might do you just fine. And Tap Gallery’s always worth a visit if you’re one for supporting emerging artists at work.
BY JACK ARTHUR SMITH