Humana Festival: Day 2, When Things Settled Down (Sort Of)

A jam packed Day 2 (all three spaces!) ends in the Bingham with Jen Silverman's The Roommate, the first of two, more or less, normal stage plays. The Roommate is perhaps the Platonic ideal of a stage play: a two hander on a unit set. There are quite a few props, but the actresses managed most of the shifts on their own (I do feel sorry for the props people - making porcelain figurines into an expendable is kind of a bummer for them). 

The Roommate starts off with a simple premise. Sharon, the secretly desperate for a new life Illinois transplant stuck in Iowa, has just taken on a new roommate. We meet Robin, the evasive New Yorker seeking a new life in Iowa, right along with Sharon. The repeated encounters of the new roommates trying to overcome their awkwardness propel the first third of the play. And before we know it, we are way beyond Odd Couple territory. The Humana Festival production crackled with the actresses' comic energy in what is ultimately a twist on the "fish out of water" genre, though, in this case, the fish has always been out of water and only discovers the  water when she is accidentally introduced into Robin's past after she snoops a bit more than she ought to have done.  

The play doesn't hang completely together at this point (it is a new play festival after all). Too often the action continues because the playwright needs the character to do something, often fairly extremely given the situation. The character duly makes the flying leap to where they need to get to next. This isn't done for gags, so it's not like these character leaps are misdirected. They are more like elisions, like this is the good parts version of events. That leaves the psychology of the women a little underdeveloped, but only a little. The play moves at a brisk clip, is sharply funny, and it features a set of characters, middle aged women, who are underrepresented on America's stages. Quibbles aside, It's more than three fourths of the way to a great play. I expect to hear about a number of regional theaters plugging this baby into their small spaces in seasons to come.