|Scott C. Brown and Brittni Thoreson|
The taut drama Two Rooms presented by Confrontational Theater Project at Eclectic Theater in Seattle has a very limited run – only through this Monday, June 3. Directed by Beau M.K. Prichard, it features Scott C. Brown, Brittni Thoreson, Taryn Pearce and Julia Nardin. It is a drama of political intrigue and personal conflict and anguish that is a perfect vehicle for a tiny fringe space the likes of Eclectic Theater, a black box space in the middle of Capital Hill that seats about 25 patrons.
Two Rooms was Time Magazine's play of the year in 1988, and is one of acclaimed playwright Lee Blessing's most recognized plays. A woman, Lainie (Thoreson), sits in an empty room and waits for news of her husband, Michael (Brown), who is being held hostage in Lebanon. She imagines conversing with her husband, and she deals with a representative of the State Department named Ellen (Nardin) and a member of the press, Walker (Pearce). Nardin plays the officious and not-at-all likeable state department staffer, and Pearce is brilliant as the feisty reporter who clashes constantly with Ellen while walking a delicate tightrope between consoling and challenging Lainie.
This trio of women actors draws the audience in as they portray a range of devastating emotions. Thoreson is particular exposes the depths of emotion and conflict as she opens Lainie’s heart to the audience as she creates a space in their home where she can feel Michael, write letters to him in her head and speak to him. Nardin’s Ellen came across as too officious and off-putting. You would think the State Department would send someone who could empathize with Lanie a little more. Was that the writing, the acting, the direction or a combination? I couldn’t tell.
This play explores the personal cost of large-scale political conflict, and measures the power, or lack of power, that governments have over individuals. The State Department wants Lainie to stay quiet, to not get in the way of their ongoing negotiations. The reporter wants to share her story with the world. Lainie just wants her husband back, and she suspects that Walker is after a Pulitzer Prize and the State Department really thinks of her husband as an expendable tool in a larger war.
Michael just wants to survive. He narrates his story of captivity while handcuffed and hooded so he cannot see. He feels his way in the dark speaking with Lainie – and to an audience he cannot see . With nuanced inflections of voice and subtle movements of his manacled hands Brown expressively conveys Michael’s hopelessness, fear and anger, and his love for his wife.
Periodically the hood comes off as Michael and Lainie play out scenes that happen only in their minds.
In this riveting performance Brown reminds me of why I have twice named him Best Actor in my annual Critic’s Choice award, first for his depiction of Salieri in Amadeus and then for his portrayal of McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The program does not credit anyone for makeup, but Michael has a bloody lip and bruises and his tight handcuffs cut into his bloody wrists so realistically that it was painful to watch. That is a masterful makeup job.
Two Rooms runs through June 3 at Eclectic Theater, 1214 10th Ave., Seattle.
Going on the Road for one night only