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Two Rooms 

This 1988 play is still relevant and eminently worthwhile

Wednesday, Feb 1 2006
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As the title suggests, Lee Blessing's riveting drama takes place in two rooms, undecorated except for the artistry of the four performers. Blindfolded in Beirut, Michael Wells (Jay Martin) is an American professor taken hostage, forced to endure solitude in darkness in the first room while he relates memories and letters to his wife aloud in monologues rife with imagery and mental anguish. A world apart, the second room is empty of furniture but also filled with frustration and longing. In the stark confines of what we understand to be Michael's old study, his wife, Lanie (Mary McGloin), focuses on her husband and considers what drastic or passive measures she might take to bring him home. Lanie's meditations are repeatedly interrupted by Ellen (A.J. Davenport), the government official assigned to address Lanie's pleas for government action, and Walker (Daveed Diggs), a seemingly sympathetic journalist. These three assertive characters debate the delicate retrieval of a nonmilitary prisoner of war. Each possesses a selfish motive for his or her involvement, rendering the dialogue intense and engaging. Tensions play out beautifully in the understated portrayals by Diggs and McGloin, both of whom depict intelligence and emotional maturity as Walker and Lanie make desperate decisions. That Two Rooms, penned in 1988, is still so relevant speaks to its strength -- and to the persistence of flawed U.S. foreign policies. Custom Made has produced a play that is simultaneously pertinent and worthwhile.

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Emily Forbes

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